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LONDON -- It began with a smile at the starting line. Moments later, Oscar Pistorius took off and the click-click-clicking of carbon on the track was all but drowned out by the 80,000 fans on hand to watch him make history Saturday. The first amputee to compete in track at the Olympics, Pistorius cruised past an opponent or two in his 400-meter heat, and by the end, the "Blade Runner" was coasting in for a stress-free success. More from ESPN.com Caple How can anyone not root for South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius, who, in competing with carbon-fiber prosthetics, is proving to the world that anything is possible, even running in the Olympics without legs, writes Jim Caple. Story Typical. Except this time, it was anything but that. "I've worked for six years ... to get my chance," said the South African, who finished second and advanced to Sunday night's semifinals. "I found myself smiling in the starting block. Which is very rare in the 400 meters." Yes, this sun-splashed day at Olympic Stadium was a good one for Pistorius, a double-amputee who runs on carbon-fiber blades and whose fight to get to this point has often felt more like a marathon than a sprint. He walked out of the tunnel, looked into the stands, saw his friends and family there -- including his 89-year-old grandmother, who was carrying the South African flag. "It's very difficult to separate the occasion from the race," Pistorius conceded. But he figured it out. He finished in a season-best time of 45.44 seconds, crossing the line and looking up at the scoreboard, then covering his face with his hands when he saw the capital "Q" -- for qualifier -- go up by his name. "Couldn't have hoped for anything better," he said. [+] EnlargeOscar Pistorius Michael Steele/Getty ImagesOscar Pistorius made history Saturday as the first amputee to compete in track at the Olympics. The 25-year-old runner was born without fibulas and his legs were amputated below the knee before he was a year old. His is one of those stories that is every bit as much about the journey -- dramatic, inspiring and controversial -- as the final result.
1. Pistorius used significantly less oxygen than able-bodied sprinters. 25% less during sprinting (the IAAF Study) and 17% less during jogging (the Herr study), to be specific. Therefore, his metabolic cost of running was lower. This was true at all speeds, from jogging to sprinting, and of course the carbon-fiber limbs are not designed for jogging in the first place, so one can question how valid a measurement would be during jogging. It was still found that he used 17%, or three Standard Deviations, less energy when jogging than able-bodied sprinters.
2. When you add in elite distance runners, then Pistorius becomes "similar" to other runners. Herr et al conveniently did this when they found that Pistorius uses 17% (or 3 SD) less oxygen than able-bodied sprinters. Rather than actually testing runners themselves, they turned to the literature and found fifteen-year old research studies on elite distance runners, and sure enough, when they added other people's data to their sample, it helped bring the average down and he became statistically similar to distance runners. Even then, he used 4% less oxygen than the elite distance runners, which is quite remarkable.
3. Pistorius had significantly lower vertical ground reaction forces and horizontal braking forces than able-bodied runners. That means less braking force, but interestingly, the same propulsive forces. This in turn means less work at the same speed than able-bodied runners. There is however a disadvantage of lower peak vertical forces, compromising the acceleration from the start.
4. The energy return from the carbon fiber limbs was 92% compared to 59% for the able-bodied runners. This, in part, explains the reduced physiological cost compared to sprinters.
5. Pistorius' rate of fatigue was similar to the able-bodied sprinters, using running trials to fatigue. This is interesting, and I have my doubts about whether testing an untrained athlete who knows the hypothesis reveals anything of value. It is also questionable as to how relevant it is to a self-paced 400m race, but this is the only one of five findings that doesn't suggest advantage.
The energy return from the carbon fiber limbs was 92% compared to 59% for the able-bodied runners