The artificial legs of South African Paralympic champion Oscar
"Blade Runner" Pistorius give him a clear advantage, taking at
least 10 seconds off his 400-metre time, a US study has said.
"Pistorius's sprinting mechanics are anomalous, advantageous and
directly attributable to how much lighter and springier his
artificial limbs are," wrote professor Peter Weyand, a co-author of
"The blades enhance sprint running speeds by 15-30%,"
said Weyand, a professor of physiology and biomechanics at Southern
Methodist University in Texas.
Matthew Bundle, assistant professor of biomechanics at the
University of Wyoming, said most of Pistorius's speed advantage
could be explained by how quickly his lightweight limbs allow him
to reposition his legs.
"At top speed, Oscar Pistorius repositions his limbs 15%
more rapidly than six of the most recent world record holders in
the 100 meter dash," wrote Bundle, calling his limb repositioning
times "literally off the charts."
’Less than half muscle force required for sprinting’
The springy, lightweight, J-shaped limbs called "Cheetahs" allow
Pistorius to attain the same sprinting speeds with 20% less
ground force than able-bodied runners, and reduce to less than half
the muscle force required for sprinting, the researchers said.
Weyand and Bundle analysed the lower limbs on which Pistorius
raced to three gold medals at the Beijing Paralympics.
The Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport in May last year
lifted a ban on him competing in able-bodied track competitions.
The ban had been imposed by the International Amateur Athletics
Federation (IAAF), which said Pistorius's limbs gave him an unfair
Pistorius missed out on a place on the South African team at the
Beijing Olympics last year but hopes to qualify for the 2012 Games
in London. – (Sapa, November 2009)