The 400 meters at worlds goes on with no Pistorius
MOSCOW (AP) — For some of the 400-meter sprinters at the world championships, the topic of Oscar Pistorius remains either taboo or simply not worth tackling.
And yet for Olympic champion Kirani James, there’s almost a sense of disappointment that Pistorius wasn’t present for the event’s opening round on Sunday. The South African double-amputee won’t compete as he prepares for his murder trial.
A year ago in London, the “Blade Runner” was one of the faces of the Olympics as Pistorius enthralled the capacity crowds not so much with his performances, but through his perseverance.
James even swapped nametags with Pistorius at the London Games, just to have a keepsake. The defending world champion from Grenada recently ran across Pistorius’ detachable jersey number while moving into a new apartment and intends to frame it.
“For him not to be here, it’s something the sport is missing,” said James, who had the second-fastest time in qualifying. “I’ve always seen him as an inspiration for not just sports but life — in terms of no matter where you’re from or what disability you have, whether it’s physical or mental, you can still do something you love and be good and proud of doing it.
“He has a very special situation. I’ll be praying for him.”
Pistorius is charged with premeditated murder in the Valentine Day’s shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. He will return to court on Aug. 19 — six days after the 400 final at worlds.
If convicted, Pistorius could be looking at a life sentence in prison, with a minimum of 25 years.
Pistorius has dropped out of all competitions this year to focus on his trial. He denies the murder charge, saying he thought Steenkamp was an intruder.
South African sprinter Wayde van Niekerk — an up-and-coming 400 runner — said he couldn’t talk about the Pistorius ordeal.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” he said after failing to advance.
Asked if Pistorius dropped him a text or reached out to him in any way, to wish him luck before the race, Van Niekerk said: “I don’t know Oscar on a personal basis.”
LaShawn Merritt sidestepped the subject of Pistorius, too, saying he preferred to keep his focus on the track and not who’s taking the starting line.
“I don’t really pay a lot of people attention,” said Merritt, who had the top time in qualifying. “It’s an individual sport. I go out and do my thing, because I’m the one trying to win. I’m the one who put the work in. I’m the one who has to race. It’s all about me, in my mind.”