Pistorius Confident of Qualifying for Olympics

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By KAREL JANICEK, Associated Press

OSTRAVA, Czech Republic (AP) — Double-amputee runner Oscar Pistorius believes he can qualify for the London Olympics with a slower time in the 400 meters than originally thought.

Pistorius, who runs on carbon-fiber blades, said Thursday he needed to finish in 45.70 seconds or better to be eligible for selection to South Africa's Olympic team.

The sprinter originally thought he must run 45.30, an "A'' qualifying time, once more before June 30 to earn a trip to the London Games. That is in line with the South Africa athletics federation Olympic criteria.

But Pistorius said a day before Friday's Golden Spike in the Czech Republic that a "B'' time should work for him "because nobody in South Africa has posted a 'B' qualification time except for myself this year. It's 45.7."

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Pistorius said he was confident he could post the time this month.

"I'm in good shape and I'm expecting from myself that I run a 'B' qualification time before the end of the month," he said.

Along with the meet in the eastern Czech city of Ostrava, which is part of the IAAF world challenge series, he plans to run another meet in Europe before traveling for two other events in the United States.

Pistorius, known as the "Blade Runner," has posted an Olympic "A'' qualifying time twice, including his personal best of 45.07.

After being initially banned by the IAAF because of doubts over whether his carbon-fiber blades gave him an unfair advantage, Pistorius won a decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2008 that allowed him to run in regular meets.

But the public debate over Pistorius' blades continues and the controversy is far from over.

Reigning Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt recently reignited the debate when he pointed out that the South African was improving every year and called on the IAAF to watch him to ensure his inclusion in able-bodied events was fair.

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Pistorius dismissed those concerns Thursday, insisting he has been using the same carbon-fiber blades since 2004.

"Nothing has changed on it," he said. "I'm not looking to increase my time, my performances, from any applications of apparatus. It's all my training, my recovery, my diet, and sacrifices I make off the track to make my performances better."

Merritt, sitting by his side at a news conference in Ostrava, declined to comment on his objections and seemed to backtrack.

"I've seen Oscar over the years. He's worked hard, had a lot of respect from anybody who runs this 400," said Merritt, who completed a 21-month doping suspension last year.

"I respect him. He's a competitor; he's a great guy. He's done what he has to do to compete. He deserves to be here."

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