How did Oscar Pistorius set a world record in the preliminaries of the 200m yet not win gold at the 2012 Paralympics? Tall blades, according to the South African. Pistorius entered the final stretch of Sunday’s 200m final with a sizeable lead, only to be caught and passed before the finish line by Brazilian Alan Oliveira.
After the race, which marked the end of the Blade Runner's undefeated streak, he complained that Oliveira’s longer prosthetic blades gave him an unfair advantage. "Not taking away from Alan's performance—he's a great athlete—but these guys are a lot taller,” Pistorius said, “and you can't compete [with the] stride length." The International Paralympic Committee regulates maximum leg length using a formula that considers the runner’s wingspan and ulna length. Oliveira has experimented with longer blades for a while, but never felt comfortable with them until earlier this year.
Steve Haake, a professor of sports engineering at Sheffield Hallam University, responded that Pistorius doesn't have a leg to stand on in making that claim. "Just making the legs longer ... doesn't necessarily make Oliveira quicker. In any case, if you look at Oliveira, he actually took more strides, which means a shorter stride length. It was that that won him the race," Haake told Reuters.
Pistorius himself was accused of using unfairly long blades in 2004, and the IAAF briefly barred him from running against able-bodied athletes on the basis that his prosthetics created an unfair advantage.