Saturday, August 4, 2012

The runner with no feet

A guy named Oscar Pistorius qualified for the 400 meter track and field semifinals at the Olympics by finishing second in his heat today.  He'll race again on Sunday.  He has no feet.  I'm not questioning his heart, effort, desire, or the obstacles he's had to overcome throughout his life.  But from a logical point of view, it seems fairly certain that the prosthetics he uses while running give him an advantage over the rest of the field.  

He's currently among the 16 fastest 400 meter runners on the planet.  If the artificial limbs created any sort of disadvantage, even by the tiniest of margins, I don't think it would be possible for anyone with them to rank among the world's best; the level of competition at the very top is just too great.  And what is the probability that the high tech carbon composite prosthetics (called "Cheetah Flex-Foot") produce identical results to that of a normal human foot and ankle?  Again that seems virtually impossible.  So if the artificial running legs aren't any worse than natural, and they aren't exactly the same, there is only one option left.

I guess there is no way to know with 100% certainty that the prosthetics make Oscar better; but the odds against it are infinitesimally small.  It's the same way I feel about the one legged wrestler who won the NCAA championship last year.

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