North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

On the cusp of a better world for sports

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We’re sitting on the cusp of something very big here.

No, not Hidiki Matsui’s porn collection. I’m talking about a new, more equal frontier of athletics.

Yesterday, The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius can race in the Olympics, overturning an earlier ruling that said his prosthetic legs gave him an unfair advantage.

This latest, and perhaps one most important, development shows a trend that sports is fast becoming more and more equal, just as society is.

We now live in an age where gay marriage is legal in California; where both a black man and a woman have a shot at being elected as President; where everybody has a chance to compete.

A little over a month ago, Danica Patrick won her first race, the Indy Japan 300, marking the first time that race has been won by a woman – and meaning that Patrick means business.

No longer a curiosity or an also-ran, Patrick is even being considered a favorite now for the Indy 500. Patrick, the driver whose small frame was considered an unfair advantage, could win one of the most famous races in the world.

Funny thing, those unfair advantages. Where else in the world would your gender, or the amount of leg you have, be considered not just unfair, but also an advantage.

When Patrick first started to race, some suggested that she race with weighed plates – making her car heavier then anybody else’s – to make the races fairer. After her win, one newspaper asked “is it time to start taking her seriously as a driver?”
Never mind that she had been racing in the IRL since 2005 and was named rookie of the year, right? She was just a curiosity on four wheels.

It’s not a lot different for Pistorius, either. Like Patrick, it’s easy to see him as a novelty, the racer who runs on fiberglass blades. But there’s something else, too. Like Patrick, he also has an overlooked advantage.

Determination. Patrick did not give up racing, even though she did not win a race in her first two seasons. She refused to let herself be put in the same class as other curiosities as Manon Rheaume or Amy Williams.

Pistorius did not give up when the Internation Association of Athletics Federations ruled he could not race. He fought that decision, right up to the highest court in sport, where he won his appeal.

It’s hard to see many of today’s more successful athletes to have the same kind of determination. If a basketball player doesn’t like his college coach, he can transfer to another school. If a hockey player doesn’t like his team, he can force a trade.

If they feel they’ve been slighted, they can just complain about it to the media or on their blog.

Instead, both Patrick and Pistorius both hung in and each ended up winning the respect they should have had all along.

And sport is better for it.


Written by M.

May 17, 2008 at 10:28 am

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