Oscar Pistorius arrived in London for the Olympics on Friday feeling “a mixture of pride, happiness and anticipation” at the end of a four-year journey that went via sport’s highest court, several small athletics stadiums and countless of miles on the track.
The South African sprinter will be the first double-amputee athlete to compete at any Olympics when he runs in the 400 meters in London, and his efforts to qualify for the games have rarely been out of the headlines over the last few years.
“I woke up this morning knowing I was traveling on the day of the opening ceremony and felt a mixture of pride, happiness and anticipation,” Pistorius wrote in an email to The Associated Press after arriving from his training camp in northern Italy.
Pistorius had to fight legal battles just for the right to qualify on his carbon fiber blades, which some argue give him an unfair advantage.
The 25-year-old South African was cleared to compete against able-bodied athletes in 2008 after taking his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sports. He still thought he’d miss out on the London Games despite running two Olympic qualifying times over the past 12 months, as he had come up short of the South Africa’s own strict criteria. But South African officials made a last-minute turnaround just weeks before the games, picking him to compete in the individual event as well as the 4×400 relay.
“This feels like a long time coming and I am ready!” Pistorius wrote. “This is going to be, I hope, an incredible few weeks of my life.”
Pistorius was in contention to be South Africa’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium later Friday, but 800 meter world silver medalist and former world champion Caster Semenya was chosen instead.
Pistorius said he still “couldn’t wait” to meet up with his South African teammates and was “really excited” to attend the opening ceremony.
Pistorius’ first race is in the 400 heats on Aug. 4. He is hoping to earn a place in the semifinals at the London Games having made the semis at last year’s world championships in South Korea, where he also made history as the first amputee athlete at the worlds.
He will defend his 100, 200 and 400 titles at the Aug. 29-Sept. 9 Paralympics.