What is the Olympics about, really? Is it about all the nations in the world coming together as a peaceful community in the name of healthy competition? Is it about blatant and shameless capitalist consumerism? Is it about running swifter, reaching higher, and being stronger?
If you listen to American coverage of the Games, it is about one thing and one thing only: the amazingly heart-wrenching story of triumph over adversity. And this year the gold medal goes unequivocally to team South Africa.
First we have Oscar Pistorius. He is a world-class runner, having broken a world record in the 400 meters and set many other South African records in other sprinting events. Known as the fastest man on no legs, Pistorius wins able-bodied races despite losing both legs at an early age.
Some have questioned his speed an agility, chalking up his wins to his disability. They contend that his carbon-fiber prostheses give him an unfair advantage. Citing data that suggested his prosthetic legs used less energy than the calves of other runners, the International Association of Athletics Federation ruled in January that he would be ineligible for the Olympics. But in May, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prevent Pistorius from qualifying for the able-bodied Olympics.
He has not done so yet-- he has until June 30. I think he can. He's the Blade Runner, after all.
As if that weren't enough for the amazingly awesome South African team, swimmer Natalie du Toit has qualified for both the Olympics and the Paralympics-- the first athlete ever to compete in both events. (Pistorius may be the second, if he qualifies for the Olympics.) She is also missing a leg, but does not use a prosthesis for swimming-- making her less controversial than her fellow countryman. But honestly? No less awesome.