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Track wrap: Pistorius makes history, Merritt out

South African “blade runner” Oscar Pistorius is through to the semi-finals of the men’s 400m, but a hamstring injury has ended LaShawn Merrit’s title defence.

Image: Mike Egerton/PA Wire/Press Association Images

SOUTH AFRICA’S OSCAR PISTORIUS made history on Saturday when he became the first double amputee to compete in an athletics event at the Olympics.

The 25-year-old qualified for the semi-finals of the 400 metres by running a season’s best of 45.44 seconds in finishing second.

Pistorius, who had both legs amputated below the knee before he was aged one, because of a congenital condition, runs on carbon fibre blades.

He is also due to run in the 4x400m relay at the Games.

Pistorius, known as the ‘Blade Runner’, competed in the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Paralympics.

But he was given the green light to make his debut in the Olympics following studies that found his prosthetics give him no advantage over his able-bodied rivals.

His personal best is 45.07sec in the 400m and Pistorius came to London wanting to break the 45-second barrier.

LaShawn Merritt, the American sprinter who was favourite to retain his title at the London Olympics, pulled up in his heat on Saturday and limped off the track.

Merritt, who has struggled back from a doping ban disgrace, stopped running after 250 metres and crossed the line at walking pace.

The 26-year-old American won the chance to compete at London by taking the title at last month’s US Olympic trials in 44.12 seconds, the fastest time in the world this year.

But he pulled up in the Monaco Diamond League meet last month, similarly coming to a halt after 300 metres.

Merritt tested positive for steroids three times in late 2009 and served a 21-month doping ban before winning an appeal to an arbitrator and successfully fighting an Olympic rule that would have banned him from the London Games.

That victory from the Court of Arbitration for Sport came with a price, however. Merritt revealed that he tested positive because he took a $6 male enhancement product, ExtenZe, that contained the banned substance DHEA.

Merritt came back last year from the ban to take second at the world championships in Daegu.

(c) AFP, 2012

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