Amputee runner Pistorius advances in 400 meters
Published : Aug 28, 2011 - 14:54
Updated : Aug 28, 2011 - 14:54

DAEGU  (Yonhap) -- Amputee runner Oscar Pistorius on Sunday qualified for the semifinals in the men's 400 meters at the ongoing World Championships in Athletics, keeping his dream alive with a strong finish at the line.

The South African ran 45.39 seconds, the second fastest of his career, to rank 14th among 24 qualifiers for Monday's semifinals.

Defending world champion LaShawn Merritt of the U.S. came in at 44.35, the best time this year, to lead the first round.

It was perhaps the most anticipated heat at these championships, aside from Usain Bolt's appearance in the men's

100-meter first round on Saturday.

Pistorius, 24, is dubbed "Blade Runner" for his carbon fiber artificial limbs. He had both legs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old because of a congenital condition that caused him to be born without his lower leg bones.

"My goal today was to be consistent," he said. "I am happy with today's performance, but I know tomorrow is going to be a lot more challenging. If I can just be consistent like I was today, I will be happy."

As the first amputee to compete at an able-bodied world championships, Pistorius had drawn a great deal of attention well before his first race here. He said he had "a big sense of relief"

after getting that first race out of the way.

Pistorius had said in the past that his goal in Daegu would be to make it out of the heat. Now that he has accomplished that goal, Pistorius said Sunday he hopes to get two more chances -- the semifinals and final -- to run here.

But he also said he is a realist.

"I hadn't raced in over a month, so I was nervous today," he said. "I've worked extremely hard to get here, and once you get (the opportunity), you don't want to just let it slide."

"I really do look at what I am capable of," he said. "I ran

45.07 earlier in the year (in Italy to qualify for Daegu). It was a phenomenal race and it's going to take a lot of work to get me close to that, and I don't think it will be enough for the final."

Pistorius added he will try to learn as much as he can from this competition and stay focused the rest of the way.

The controversy surrounding his blades and whether they give him an advantage over others has been raised again in recent weeks after Pistorius qualified for worlds.

In 2008, the International Association of Athletics Federations

(IAAF) banned him from its competitions, citing advantages his legs gave him over able-bodied athletes. The Court of Arbitration for Sport later overruled the IAAF decision and made Pistorius eligible for competitions. But the IAAF recently said it has the power to reevaluate the situation to determine whether the prosthetic limbs remain within the rules.

But Pistorius on Sunday had at least one supporter -- Merritt.

"He ran the time to get here," Merritt said. "He's a great person. He's dedicated and motivated, and has a great heart. He doesn't quit. I wish all the best with him."

The 400-meter semifinals are set for 8 p.m. Monday, and the finals will be at 9:45 p.m. Tuesday.