“The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop would not be so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.”—Helen Keller
Every now and then you run across people who leave an indelible mark on your mind. These are the people who are true warriors, with a badge of courage in their hearts and a fierce determination to overcome the adversity that faces them. I found one of these people when I was channel surfing during the 2012 Summer Olympics and happened on the qualifying rounds for the men’s 400-meter race semifinals. The field included a 25-year-old South African runner Oscar Pistorius, a new name at this year’s Games, but one that would become legendary after the world saw him compete.
Pistorius’ story begins when he was a baby, born without fibulae in both of his lower legs, which were amputated below the knee when he was only 11 months old. From the start, Oscar was different, but that difference extended far beyond his being a double amputee. He was different because he never gave in to his disability; it only strengthened his heart and his drive to compete.
For years Pistorius fought the international athletic establishments in an effort to compete. Many members of these groups believed his carbon fiber prosthetic limbs gave him an unfair advantage over other runners. Then, in 2008, an international court ruled that the super-charged Pistorius could compete in the Beijing Games—carbon fiber limbs and all. Pistorius didn’t qualify for the South African team that year, but the decision and Pistorius’ mettle opened up a whole new world for athletes with disabilities. In the grueling 2012 400-meter sprint semifinal, Pistorius finished last in a field of world-class runners with a time of around 46 seconds.
Watching Oscar Pistorius compete with the sheer force of his will gave me an epiphany, a reminder that life is about the courage to get in the hunt and go for it. When I watched his competitors—world-class athletes from around the globe—approach him and hug him at the end of his races, the Oscar Pistorius message was even more clear: Never give up. It’s not about winning, it’s about trying.
Pistorius was the heart and soul and true inspiration of the 2012 Olympic Games. He has climbed the dark valleys into new heights, showing us along the way that any limitation can be overcome. If there is a symbol of hope, look no further than Oscar Pistorius. He is proof that, one way or another, we can all climb the mountain. It just takes the courage to try.