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Making a difference one leg at a time

The 2012 London Summer Olympic Games have officially begun.

More than 500 athletes make up Team USA and while there is competition in the air, there’s also camaraderie.

All eyes are on South Africa’s Oscar Pistorious — the first ever double amputee to compete in the Olympics on the track — with help from a researcher from the University of Idaho.

One leg, two legs or no legs, it’s all about living a normal life. For South Africa’s Oscar Pistorious, competing in the Olympics with running-specific prosthetic legs is a dream come true.

That dream was turned into reality after Oscar was originally banned from competition when a team of researchers, including Craig McGowan from the University of Idaho, showed these legs didn’t give him an unfair energetic advantage.

“We were able to show that he fit the same curve as many other athletes,” said McGowan. “So, he doesn’t fatigue differently than any other athletes competing.”

The research was enough for Oscar’s ban to be overturned and as a result, he gets to compete.

“In the process, he made it very clear that he just wanted to know the truth,” said McGowan. “He seemed very open to the fact that if there was some type of advantage due to the prosthetic, he wouldn’t compete.”

McGowan said these prosthetic legs aren’t new. In fact, they’ve been around since the 1980’s and haven’t changed much.

“There’s been a number of athletes who run on these running-specific prosthetics that have not come anywhere near the speeds that Oscar has been able to achieve,” said McGowan. “He really and truly is a unique athlete.”

McGowan isn’t the only Vandal with ties to the Summer Olympics. UI alumna Kristin Armstrong is looking for her second Olympic medal at the Summer Games this year.

The cyclist won the Olympic Gold in 2008.

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