SMU professor says ‘blade runners’ offer significant advantage
Sports journalist Tim Cowlishaw with The Dallas Morning News has covered the long-running global controversy surrounding double-amputee South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius. Controversy has swirled around the sprinter over whether his light-weight, carbon-fiber prosthetic “Cheetah” legs give him a competitive advantage.
Cowlishaw’s Aug. 12 column “Research by SMU professor shows blades give Pistorius edge” quotes SMU’s Peter Weyand, an expert on human locomotion and on Pistorius’ competitive advantage.
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Weyand helped lead a team of scientists who are experts in biomechanics and physiology in conducting experiments on Pistorius and the mechanics of his racing ability.
Weyand is widely quoted in the press for his expertise on human speed. He is an SMU associate professor of applied physiology and biomechanics in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education & Human Development.
By Tim Cowlishaw
Dallas Morning News
Four years ago, Dr. Peter Weyand’s research at Rice University helped overturn a ban that kept Oscar Pistorius, a double amputee from South Africa, from using his “blade runners” to compete on the same track with the world’s finest athletes.
Pistorius made history this past week in London where he reached the semifinals of the 400 meters and ran the anchor leg for the South African team in the men’s 4×400 relay.
Today Weyand is an associate professor at SMU. His locomotor performance laboratory sits just off campus. And the man who helped make Pistorius’ barrier-breaking trip to the Olympics possible isn’t sure that’s such a good thing.
Weyand contends that Pistorius has a significant advantage over “intact limb” runners. Former gold medal winner Michael Johnson made that statement before the London Games and was, essentially, laughed at.
In Weyand’s case, he has years of data to support it.
“The first order of business is to acknowledge his achievement — his Olympic qualification,” Weyand said. “We all like him. What he’s done is remarkable. It’s a story you couldn’t make up.
“But there’s a legitimate performance question, and we got involved on a scientific level to evaluate that question.”
In 2007, Pistorius was banned from standard competition by the IAAF (track’s governing body) because of German research that suggested Pistorius had an advantage based on lower oxygen consumption. Pistorius appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and Weyand’s team at Rice conducted the study that eventually cleared him to compete.[…]
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