What's Buzzing:

Oscar Pistorius steals spotlight with Olympic debut

Charles Robinson
Yahoo Sports

LONDON – After six years of training, Oscar Pistorius crouched in the starting blocks poised to make history. It was a serious moment, punctuated by years of work and court battles and controversy. And in what should have been a time of focus and intensity, Pistorius was crouched in the blocks, doing the unexpected.

He was smiling. The first amputee ever to compete in track and field at the Olympics was overcome with joy.

"I've worked for six years to try and make the 400-meter semifinal," Pistorius said. "To come out here today is just an unbelievable experience. I found myself smiling in the starting blocks."

[ Video: Who will step in for injured U.S. star LaShawn Merritt? ]

"I've got goose bumps now and it's been an hour since I raced."

A double-amputee who was born without fibulae in each of his legs, Pistorius finished second in his heat of the 400 meters and qualified for the semifinals of the event, coming in at 45.44 seconds – his second-fastest time of the year – despite pulling back to conserve energy at the end. It was easily the most breathtaking moment of an eventful morning – from LaShawn Merritt's deflating hamstring injury to blazing U.S. times in the 100-meter heats.

Yet it was Pistorius and his carbon-fiber blades that had a capacity Olympic Stadium crowd thundering with applause usually only reserved for the likes of Jamaica's Usain Bolt or Great Britain's Jessica Ennis. The electricity of the moment turned an average 400-meter heat into what almost seemed like a medal event. Pistorius was introduced and raised his arms to wild clicks from a section of nearby photographers, then crouched into the blocks with that smile.

And he did what other runners have been noting about him over the last year – he ran a good race.

Coming from the rear of the pack from Lane 6 after his typical slow start, Pistorius steadily moved forward near the midway point of the race and surfaced just behind Luguelin Santos of the Dominican Republic. Pacing himself off Santos down the stretch, Pistorius finished .4 seconds back and had the qualification he had so desperately worked for. With his family in the stands, including his 89-year-old grandmother, Pistorius' 45.44 ultimately came in as the 16th best time of the 400 heats. It was a performance even Santos could admire.

[ Related: Asafa Powell's (and other sprinters') odd prerace rituals ]

"I know Oscar was the protagonist in the race, but I love him," Santos said through a translator. "He's a good racer. … I felt inspiration to see him – emotion and inspiration."

"It takes a lot of courage," added Grenada's Kirani James, who won his own 400-meter heat. "[He has] a lot of confidence in what he does."

With Pistorius drawing Lane 5 in his semifinal heat, the world is just waiting to see how fast he can go. Had he kicked out the final 20 meters of his first heat, he might have approached the 45-second barrier, which he has yet to penetrate. But with a fast track and a boisterous race crowd, he may finally break it Saturday night.

"You get so much energy from the crowd," Pistorius said. "… I believe the track is fast but the crowd is what is really making it that much more enjoyable.

"My coaching staff have done a great job to let me peak at the right time. I've had a lot of faith and trust in them. I couldn't have hoped for anything better."

More Olympics coverage on Yahoo! Sports:

Related Olympics coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
Michael Phelps' finale becomes hottest Olympic ticket
Video: Debbie Phelps talks about Michael's retirement plans
Photos: Inspirational Olympic celebrations

  • Holder helps ASU knock off No. 23 USC

    Holder helps ASU knock off No. 23 USC

    Arizona State turned up the defense gave No. 23 USC a loss it never expected. The Sun Devils (14-11, 4-8 Pac-12) were supposed to be the warmup act before the Trojans faced No. 17 Arizona Sunday night. Nikola Jovanovic had 25 points and 15 … More »

    AP - Sports - 6 minutes ago
  • Varlamov's 43 saves lead Avs past Wings

    Varlamov's 43 saves lead Avs past Wings

    Semyon Varlamov lifted his team to a win on a night when the rest of the Colorado Avalanche were outplayed thoroughly. Varlamov made 43 saves and Blake Comeau scored in both the third period and the shootout to help the Avalanche to a 3-2 victory … More »

    AP - Sports - 6 minutes ago
  • First Nations basketball player excluded from games, native identity questioned

    First Nations basketball player excluded from games, native identity questioned

    "There's no shame in having multiple identities," said Don Wilson, Josiah's father, a Calgary-based doctor born to an aboriginal father and Caucasian mother, who was raised in Bella Bella, B.C. Roth said in the complex web of issues surrounding … More »

    The Canadian Press - 6 minutes ago
  • Trier scores 18, No. 17 Arizona holds off UCLA 81-75

    Trier scores 18, No. 17 Arizona holds off UCLA 81-75

    Allonzo Trier scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half, Parker Jackson-Cartwright added 16 points and No. 17 Arizona held off UCLA 81-75 on Friday night. Arizona (20-5, 8-4 Pac-12) stumbled through a lackluster first half at both ends to trail … More »

    AP - Sports - 8 minutes ago
  • Kopitar nets 3, Kings top Rangers in OT

    Kopitar nets 3, Kings top Rangers in OT

    The Los Angeles Kings often work overtime. Tanner Pearson's goal with 1:50 left in the extra period powered the Kings to a 5-4 win over the New York Rangers on Friday night. Anze Kopitar recorded a hat trick and Marian Gaborik added a goal for … More »

    AP - Sports - 9 minutes ago