Daegu (South Korea): Double-amputee runner Oscar Pistorius won a silver medal on Friday at the World Championships despite being excluded from the starting lineup in the 4x400-meter relay final.
One day after helping South Africa qualify for the final, Pistorius was left out of Friday's race and could only watch his teammates finish second in a thrilling finale won by the United States.
"Haven't Been included in the Final for the SA Mens 4x400m. Pretty Guttered," Pistorius wrote in a Twitter message on the morning of the final.
Instead of Pistorius, the South African team decided to go with L.J. van Zyl, who won bronze in the 400-meter hurdles on Thursday. Because Pistorius ran the heats, he got the medal nevertheless.
"It was difficult and everyone felt guilty," Van Zyl said.
After making a historic breakthrough for Paralympic athletes by reaching the semi-finals of the 400 early this week, the "Blade Runner" ran a strong lead-off leg on in the heats to help his team to a third-place finish and a South African record.
Still, Pistorius had to make way for Van Zyl.
"We decided before the heats that the slowest runner on the team in the prelims would not run the final," Van Zyl said. "Unfortunately, Oscar's leg was the slowest."
And after scoring South Africa's best result in the event, it was tough to argue against the decision. In the huddle celebrating a famous silver, there were no carbon-fiber blades to be seen.
"It was all down to the management," said Shane Victor, who took Pistorius' place as leadoff runner.
Pistorius' manager, Peet van Zyl, still thought his runner should have been included.
"It was a big surprise to us. It is a disappointment, needless to say, for Oscar," Peet van Zyl said. "It was the team management that made the call for reasons we don't know."
It was already considered an amazing performance for Pistorius, who had his legs amputated when he was a baby, to get into the 400 semi-finals on his carbon-fiber blades, but Thursday's relay performance did one better.
The IAAF had said that Pistorius could only run the lead-off leg of the relay because it is completed with teams still running in lanes. There were fears that the his blades could be a danger if he had to run in a bunch.
Van Zyl ran the anchor leg in the final. The anchor from the heats, Shane Victor, became the lead-off runner.
Still it was another giant stride forward in the career of the 24-year-old runner who always refused to believe that the lack of shins, ankles and toes made him less of an athlete than able-bodied competitors he regularly beat.
Since childhood, he was good at whatever he did, became a Paralympic star and won three gold medals at the Beijing Paralympics to prove it.
Yet he always wanted to compete against the best.
Now, he has a World Championship silver to prove it.