Double-amputee Oscar Pistorius has realistic shot at Olympic medal, says "I feel very strong"

Oscar Pistorius of South Africa attend a press conference on Day 5 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Park on August 1, 2012 in London, England.
Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

(AP) LONDON - After a four-year battle to qualify for the Olympics as the first double amputee runner, Oscar Pistorius has overcome yet another obstacle ahead of his first race at the London Games.

He has secured the assurance that he will be allowed to run any of the four parts of the 4x400-meter relay, and will not be held back by concerns that the carbon fiber blades replacing his lower legs would endanger others once runners leave their lanes after the first lap.

As a slow starter, he is better suited to running in the later stages of the relay. Without being restricted to running just the first leg, when competitors are running in their individual lanes, a runner with prosthetic legs now has a realistic shot at stepping onto the Olympic medal podium.

"I don't know which leg I am going to run, but I am ready to run whichever leg they will ask me to run," Pistorius said.

Pistorius is now totally at peace with the IAAF international athletics federation, his one-time opponent that sought to keep him out of its races because of his artificial legs. He smoothly and politely dismisses any critic who still says it is unfair to allow him to run at the Olympics.

Oscar Pistorius set for long-awaited Olympic debut
Double-amputee Oscar Pistorius to run in Olympics

In an hour-long press conference Wednesday, only one issue produced bitter, contentious words. His exclusion from last year's world championship 4x400 relay final and his restriction to running anything but the leadoff leg of the semifinal race.

"It made for a very unprofessional decision. I was the quickest athlete in the country," Pistorius said. "I will never understand the decision and, yes, I am bitter about it."

The IAAF said it never restricted Pistorius to the first leg, but merely advised his blades could prove a danger to other runners if he were running in a pack in other parts of the race.

Last year, South African team orders limited him to the first leg in the semifinal. And even though the four-runner squad set a national record there, he surprisingly was not picked for the final, where South Africa took silver behind the overpowering U.S. team.

The final, he said, was "the race I was entitled to run in. I always say that and someone should be held accountable for it." It kept him from mounting the medal podium for the silver and he only got his medal later.

Ever since, he has been bent on trying to prove he is no danger to others, running other relay legs in South Africa this season and during a silver medal performance at the African championships last month.

He will be happy to get to the individual 400 semifinals, but his real chance for success lies with the relay.

Again, the United States will be the overwhelming favorite, but behind that team, it is an open tussle between Jamaica, Kenya, Belgium and Russia.

After a lackluster start to the season, his form has improved. He even won a first individual medal when he finished second at the African championships.

"This season I struggled a little bit to get into the rhythm," Pistorius said. Ahead of Saturday's 400 heats though, "I feel very strong."

And any good time will further have to convince South African selectors to use Pistorius where he likes it best - second or third in the relay.

"What I can do in order to prepare is show I can perform," Pistorius said.