Double-amputee will run at world championships

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Double-amputee will run at world championships

From Comcast SportsNet Monday, August 8, 2011

JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Double-amputee runner Oscar Pistorius was chosen by South Africa's athletics federation to join this month's world championships.

Pistorius called the selection a culmination of his dream to compete at the highest level against able-bodied athletes. He will be the first amputee athlete at the worlds when he represents South Africa in Daegu, South Korea, as its only runner in the 400 meters. He was also chosen for the 4x400 relay.

The 24-year-old Pistorius was part of a group of 26 athletes picked by Athletics South Africa after he smashed his personal best last month at a meet in northern Italy. He made the qualifying time for the worlds and next year's London Olympics.

"I have dreamt for such a long time of competing in a major championships and this is a very proud moment in my life," Pistorius said in a statement. "It is an honor to be representing my country at such a prestigious event and I hope to do my best at the competition for South Africa."

"If I manage to make it through the heats, I would be thrilled," he added. "A good performance for me would be to be consistent through the heats. If I ran anywhere close to my PB (personal best), I would be delighted."

Women's 800-meter world champion Caster Semenya was also included and will defend the title she won in 2009 amid a storm of controversy over gender tests.

Eleven of South Africa's athletes will be going to the world championships for the first time, including Pistorius, who had to take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to be allowed to compete in able-bodied events on his carbon fiber blades.

The International Association of Athletics Federations had banned the multiple Paralympic gold medal winner from able-bodied competition, saying the blades gave him an unfair advantage.

Pistorius was cleared to compete in 2008, but failed to qualify for that year's Beijing Olympics and the 2009 worlds in Berlin.

But, needing to run 45.25 seconds to make this year's world championships, Pistorius clocked 45.07 last month in Lignano, Italy, his final race before the qualifying cutoff. He had never run faster than 45.61.

"The IAAF is a world-class governing body for our sport and I am grateful to have the chance to run in their events," Pistorius said. "It will be a great day for me when I set out on the track in Daegu and I hope to do my country proud. This will be the highest-profile and most prestigious able-bodied event which I have ever competed in and I will face the highest-caliber of athletes from across the planet."

New Athletics South Africa President James Evans said there was no concern on the part of the national federation over renewed criticism -- after Pistorius ran his 45.07 -- that the blades were unfair for other athletes.

"He has been cleared by CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport)," Evans told The Associated Press, "and this has been dealt with by the courts already. The IAAF have accepted his entry (for the world championships) and there is no reason for us not to pick him."

The world championships will take place Aug. 27-Sept. 4.

Semenya was cleared to run last year after an 11-month layoff because of the gender tests, but has had an erratic buildup to her title defense. She struggled with a back injury and then failed to come anywhere near the devastating pace she showed in winning the 800 as an 18-year-old two years ago.

"Hopefully she will reproduce that form," Evans said. "She hasn't had the greatest run-up to the world championships, but it is the world championships. We'll do everything we can to help her."

Men's 800 world champion Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and 400-meter hurdler LJ van Zyl were also named to the team, as was Khotso Mokoena, the 2008 Olympic and 2009 world silver-medalist in the long jump.

Steelers descending into disarray?

Steelers descending into disarray?

Less than 48 hours removed from openly wondering if the AFC Championship Game stage was “too big” for some of his young teammates, Ben Roethlisberger has decided to play the latter-day Hamlet/Brett Favre game.

Speaking on Pittsburgh’s 93.7 The Fan on Tuesday, Roethlisberger hinted at retirement.

“I’m going to take this offseason to evaluate, to consider all options,” Roethlisberger said. “To consider health, and family and things like that and just kind of take some time away to evaluate next season, if there’s going to be a next season. All those things. I think at this point in my career, at my age, that’s the prudent and smart thing to do every year.”

The soon-to-be-35-year-old Roethlisberger is a likely Hall of Famer who’s still arguably one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL. But for whatever reason, he’s got an insatiable need for people to register concern about his status. Whether it be limping around the field, lamenting injuries or this, few quarterbacks in the league go through the same histrionics Roethlisberger does in order to get those, “Attaboy, Ben!” backslaps.

I remember being at Steelers training camp in 2009 in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and having veteran Steelers writers roll their eyes as Roethlisberger started hopping around like he was on hot coals after a throw. The quarterback having an owie act was a daily tradition.

Roethlisberger’s also got a passive aggressive side in which he’ll deftly twist the knife on coaches and teammates but leave himself enough room for plausible deniability.

In addition to openly wondering if his young teammates took the AFC Championship Game seriously enough, Roethlisberger gave the “just running the plays as I’m told” answer when asked about the Steelers resistance to running a quarterback sneak when they were at the Patriots goal line before halftime. Roethlisberger could have taken offensive coordinator Todd Haley off the hook there – he’s lobbied for Haley to get a head coaching shot after the two had a bad relationship when Haley arrived. But he opted not to.

Similarly, earlier this year, Roethlisberger’s critiques of the way head coach Mike Tomlin was running the team were aired. 

So, this could be part of a Roethlisberger power play aimed at the Steelers bowing to his wishes.

That wasn’t the only tidbit from Pittsburgh that looked bad for the AFC finalists. Linebacker Bud Dupree said the Steelers were surprised by the Patriots using an up-tempo offense earlier in the game. 

Do they not have electricity or internet access in the Steelers facility? Up-tempo is a staple part of the Patriots offensive diet. You can see it on the television or the internet through your smart phone.

While there’s no doubt that defensive coordinator Keith Butler – and defensive minded head coach Tomlin – were aware and talked about the Patriots going no-huddle, the fact Dupree (and his teammates) were unable to recall the preparation or adequately fall into an emergency plan to address it does fall on the coaches.

Need more? It’s also being leaked out of the building that Antonio Brown cares too much about his statistics. He made clear last week how much he cares about advancing his personal brand at the expense of Tomlin and the team with his Facebook Live video. 

If there’s an upside for anyone in all this, it would have to be Joey Porter. Nobody’s even talking about his off-field fracas anymore.

As this season ably demonstrated, the Patriots have plum run out of authentic rivals in the AFC. That the team they just pulverized is steamrolling into an offseason of dysfunction and uncertainty isn't good if you like parity. But it's terrific if you couldn't care less.