Oscar Pistorius to start 2013 season in Australia
Athletics Australia has struck a deal with Oscar Pistorius, the first ever double amputee Olympian, to make his running debut in Australia next year in a major coup for its upcoming domestic athletics tour.
Pistorius, dubbed the ''Blade Runner'' for his carbon fibre blades, will compete in the Sydney and Perth instalments of the 2013 Australian Athletics Tour, starting with the Sydney Track Classic on March 9.
The South African wowed audiences at the London Olympics by reaching the semi-finals of the 400m and also ran in the 4x400m relay final before carrying his nation's flag at the closing ceremony.
Maurie Plant, Athletics Australia's international liaison officer, said he expected Pistorius to have a major impact next year.
''Athletics Australia is very certain that this is a man who can provide us with great interest and great coverage of the sport at a couple of levels - at the basic level and also the disabled level,'' Plant said.
''He is a guy who has broken down the barriers because he has transcended what used to be looked at as the two genres of the sport,'' he said.
''You had your disabled sports and you had your able-bodied sports. He is someone who has been able to come through and be a success in both.
''He is an all-time great among the disabled sports, and what he has done for disabled sport by being extremely competitive in the able-bodied version is fantastic.
It is understood Pistorius, who was the face of the 2012 Paralympic Games, will receive a fee for his two-week visit.
That AA has been able to agree to terms with Pistorius will come as a great relief, given it was only a week ago reigning Olympic and world 100m hurdles champion Sally Pearson confirmed she would have to skip the bulk of the domestic series due to an ongoing back problem.
Should Pistorius be on his game, it could set up a marquee clash with rising Australian 400m star and London Olympic finalist Steve Solomon in Sydney and Perth - a prospect that excites the 26-year-old.
''The 4x400m team from Australia has always been strong so I know there will be strong competition at both meets,'' Pistorius said in a statement.
''The rise of Steve Solomon to the Olympic final was astounding too, so fingers crossed I will see him on the start lists when I am out there.
''Between all of us, I hope we can put on a bit of a show for the fans.
''I plan to be in pretty solid form when I arrive and it would be great to start my season in style at the meet.
''Australia and South Africa are a bit unique in that our seasons domestically fall outside those in Europe or North America.
''It can be hard to track down strong competition so early in the year so, when I got this opportunity from Athletics Australia, I was pretty excited.''
Sydney Morning Herald