Olympian Pistorius set for Dunhill debut

10/3/2012 6:26:43 PM
Paralympic gold medallist Oscar Pistorius   (Getty Images)
Paralympic gold medallist Oscar Pistorius (Getty Images)

In front of sold-out crowd of over 80,000 people, plus millions more watching around the globe, Oscar Pistorius made history by becoming the first amputee runner to compete at an Olympic Games in August.

On Thursday, exactly two months to the day since he sprinted his way into sporting folklore, the South African will take on a different challenge altogether when he tees it up in the 2012 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship – and Pistorius says he will be far more nervous in his appearances at St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns than he ever is on the race track.

“I’m sweating already!” said Pistorius. “Yesterday when we came up the 18th there were 20 people and I was starting to freak out, so I don’t know what tomorrow is going to be like. I’ve always competed better with the big crowds. I don’t know if it’s going to be the same to be said with the golf, but I’m looking forward it.”

The 25 year old admitted, though, that the experience of playing in this week’s unique European Tour event would be hard pressed to top his most daunting public appearance to date.

“I had to do a Dancing with the Stars show last year in Italy, and I would like to say I have two left feet but I have no feet at all!” joked Pistorius.

“That for me was by far the most nerve wracking thing I’ve ever done.

“Running is always nerve wracking when you have big competitions, but it’s what I know, it’s what I do every day.  When you do something in front of a big crowd that you’re not accustomed to doing or that you don’t do very, very well, it is nerve wracking. 

“I would like to say that I would just like to have fun this week, but ultimately I’m a very fierce competitor, so I would like to do well, as well.”

Popularly known by the nickname ‘Blade Runner’, a reference to the prosthetic limbs on which he competes, Pistorius competed in both the Summer Olympics – where he ran in the men’s 400 metres semi-final – and Paralympics, in which the South African won gold medals in the 400 metres and 4x100 metres relay, and silver in the 200 metres having earlier set a world record in the semi-final.

Playing off a handicap of 18, Pistorius said he shot 88 in his practice round on Tuesday on the Old Course at St Andrews but “closer to three digits” on Wednesday, before crediting his interest in the sport to his upbringing in Johannesburg.

“I've played golf all around the world and in South Africa it's very cheap to play,” Pistorius reflected. Often kids get involved in golf in South Africa and I was very privileged on the weekends, sometimes for fun I would go to the driving range with my friends and just hit some balls.

“And as the years went on, I have just really enjoyed it.  This week is definitely by far the most amazing experience for me.  My golf has not really improved much to be honest.  It’s probably the same as it was seven or eight years ago, but for me as long as I have one good putt, one good chip and one good drive a day, I think that that’s enough for me."

An eloquent speaker and an engaging character, Pistorius is a great supporter of numerous charitable endeavours and ahead  of his first round tomorrow at Carnoustie – where he will play alongside Ryder Cup Vice Captain Paul McGinley – he reserved special praise for his golfing compatriots and the way in which they represent his home country.

“South Africa has been so blessed with so many phenomenal golfers, and I'll always support them,” he said. “It's one of the sports where the guys are not only great sportsmen but great ambassadors for our country – spearheaded by Gary Player.  He's always been a true ambassador to South Africa, not only as a golfer, but as a human being; he's a great sportsman and humanitarian.”