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Last Updated: Friday, 5 May 2006, 06:54 GMT 07:54 UK
Amputee eyes Olympics
By Elizabeth Hudson
BBC Sport in Manchester

South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius
Pistorius prepares his blades ahead of some more training
South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius has set his sights on a sporting first - to compete in a Paralympics and Olympics in the same year.

The 19-year-old double amputee, who is racing in Sunday's Visa Paralympic World Cup in Manchester, wants to compete at Beijing 2008 or London 2012.

"I don't know if anyone has thought of a disabled runner competing at an Olympics but it is a goal for me," said Pistorius, who runs on carbon-fibre "blades".

"However, I don't want to chase unrealistic targets.

"The 2008 Olympics might come too soon but by 2012 I will only be 25 and will be reaching my peak as a sprinter.

Although I train with able-bodied athletes in South Africa and compete against them regularly, there is something special about Paralympic competition
Oscar Pistorius
"The 400m represents my best chance of being able to achieve that goal as single amputees are faster than me over shorter distances.

"To get to an Olympics I know I need to aim for a time of around mid-45 seconds and my best time so far has been 47.34 seconds.

Pistorius broke onto the international stage at the Athens Paralympics where he won gold in the T44 200m, earning nicknames such as "the fastest thing on no legs" and "Bladerunner".

He clocked the sixth-best time over 400m in South Africa last year - a time which betters the able-bodied women's world best of 47.60, set by German Marita Koch in 1985.

In Manchester he will aim for a sprint double in the T44 100m and 200m after winning both titles 12 months ago.

"Although I train with able-bodied athletes in South Africa and compete against them regularly, there is something special about Paralympic competition as it is the chance to race against your peers.

"Because last year's Paralympic World Cup was the first, you didn't know what to expect but it was a success and I'm looking forward to this year's event."

The South African's only regret is that he will not be up against his great rival Marlon Shirley in Manchester after the American had to pull out through injury.

"We haven't competed against each other since Athens and if we only go up against each other every four years, that's disappointing," he said.

"I'm only a relative newcomer to the sport and I still have things to learn from the more experienced athletes and I think we both need each other to run fast to improve each other."

It irritates me when people think I have an unfair advantage
Oscar Pistorius
Pistorius took eight months off from the sport after last year's Paralympic World Cup to concentrate on his studies.

But he has refocused on his goals and admits that life has altered considerably since he started a degree in business management at the University of Bloemfontein last year.

"Going to university has changed my life. I'm staying in a place with some friends and the move has given me more independence.

"I've got more responsibilities but it was very difficult for me to motivate myself when I came back to the sport. However, I have a great team at my disposal at the university which is a huge help."

The young athlete has also needed to fend off controversy over the blades he uses.

There has been speculation that his blades may give him an unfair advantage by making him taller than necessary and therefore able to cover more ground in less steps.

But he said: "It irritates me when people think I have an unfair advantage. I still have to put in the training and it is hard to believe some people are jealous of my achievements.

"My father and I have spoken to the International Paralympic Committee about the blades and they don't have a problem, neither do the South African able-bodied team who I train with.

"I just want to concentrate on working hard and trying to achieve my goals."

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