Blazing blades lord over horse power
The build-up lasted close to an hour and the actual event a 15-second blur, on a nippy night on Wednesday. N Ananthanarayanan reports. Man vs beast?other Updated: Dec 14, 2012 01:50 IST
The build-up lasted close to an hour and the actual event a 15-second blur, on a nippy night on Wednesday.
Oscar Pistorius, with not a bead of sweat on his face or a hint of strain, was beaming ear to ear at the end of it after the South African double-amputee 'trumped' a pedigree Arabian steed, Maserati, in the climax to the inaugural Doha GOALS (Gathering of All Leaders in Sport) Forum.
Man racing an animal, regarded as the epitome of power and energy, may have been a desperate attempt at financial survival in times gone by. This time, it was an effort by the organisers to grab global media headlines thanks to the popularity of the Paralympic champion.
Once the forum wound down at the Aspire Dome, the delegates quickly moved to the nearby race venue. A single synthetic track, sloping away in the last 40 metres, had been a laid. The horse, brown and barely visible at first as the temporary stands were still vacant, was trotting up and down its adjacent sandy track.
Many fellow Paralympians were wheeled in, among those close to the VIP enclosure atop a grassy bank included Esther Vergeer, the Dutch woman wheelchair tennis star. Aussie swimming great Ian Thorpe and NBA stalwart Juwan Howard were among the special invitees.
A man in a smart suit tapped and made last minute checks on the synthetic track, much like a railway guard on night patrol. Soon, Pistorius, in a black vest rather than the yellow-and-green national colours of South Africa, stepped out. His campaign motto "Definitely Able" written on the back of his vest and the Olympic rings tattooed on his right forearm, he settled on the blocks. The horse strained in its leash several metres behind.
And he was off in a flash. The starter used a whistle as the sound of the gun would have startled the horse. This seemed to give Pistorius a fu-rther headstart than the 20m he already had. As the horse reached full gallop, the South African was already easing down past the finish. "Such power, such beauty!" he declared, as the 'magnanimous' animal was led away.
Pistorius told reporters: "It was not really about the race. It was about the message it sent out. There comes a time in every athlete's life, at some point, of doing something amazing. I beat him handsomely but the thing is an athlete gets off to a consistent start. A horse sometimes starts well and sometimes it doesn't. If the horse had won, it would still have carried the same message."
The writer's trip was sponsored by Doha Goals