DAEGU, South Korea (Reuters) - Double-amputee Oscar Pistorius was sacrificed in South Africa’s pursuit of a world athletics relay medal, the country’s team leader told Reuters on Friday.
Despite helping his country to a national record in the qualifying heats on Thursday, the 24-year-old was cut from the team for Friday’s final, replaced by 400 meters hurdler LJ van Zyl, whom the team felt would be a better option.
Van Zyl is the only South African to have run faster over 400 meters than Pistorius this year.
Pistorius, who runs on carbon blades having had his lower legs amputated as a baby, could not hide his disappointment, writing on Twitter: “Pretty Guttered.”
“Thats me for the ... World Champs! Gods blessed me! Semifinals in the 400m and a National Record in the 4x400m semi! Thank u all!x”
Although Pistorius fared well on his leg, the fact he is not the fastest of starters, and the IAAF has stipulated he must run the first leg of any relay for safety reasons, may have been a factor for the South African team.
“We had a meeting and asked LJ if he was ready. Everybody, even the athletes, wanted LJ, knowing his performance in the relay,” South African team leader Motlatsi Keikabile told Reuters by telephone.
Keikabile said South Africa had no choice but to use the four they did in the heats, because the two other members of the relay pool, Van Zyl and Cornel Fredericks, were competing in the 400 hurdles final.
“They did wonderful. But at least our life was made easier (on Friday) because one of the six told us he was not ready, that was Cornel, so then we were left with five.
“And so we had to look at the five and think ‘who are the best, who are the fastest who can give us a medal?’
“So the first person we asked was LJ because he raced yesterday and to find out if he still had some gas, and he said ‘Yes, I am ready’.
“We asked everybody ‘are we having LJ?’ and everybody said ‘yes’ knowing his performance in the relay. So everybody even the athletes wanted LJ.
“If they wanted LJ then it meant one of the four who broke the record would miss out. It means Oscar is not in, but he remains and he will be there to cheer the four.
“It is sad to be taken out of the team but it happens in every country.
“Breaking the record... yes... qualification is a competition at another level, but being in the final is something else.”
Keikabile said the decision had been taken in a team meeting with the six athletes.
The four who will compete for South Africa are Van Zyl, Ofentse Mogawane, Willem de Beer and Shane Victor.
Additional reporting by Gene Cherry; Editing by John O'Brien