(ATR) Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius says that London 2012 will be the first "truly international Paralympic Games".
Pistorius was speaking at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in London after winning the Laureus Sportsperson with a Disability of the Year Award.
"The Blade Runner" made history last year by becoming the first amputee to win a medal after he helped the South African team win silver in the 4x400m relay at the IAAF World Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea.
Pistorius said he was looking forward to London 2012 changing perceptions about the Paralympics this summer.
"I think London’s really going to change a lot in our perception of the Paralympics," he said. "In my short career, since the Paralympics in Athens, I saw a massive difference from Athens to Beijing and in even in the years since Beijing a lot has changed.
"Paralympic sports are no longer just inspirational. It’s hardcore sport that we’ve become accustomed to love. I believe London is going to be the first truly international Paralympic Games that people are going to see as a sporting event on its own."
However, Pistorius dismissed the suggestion that has been floated before that the Olympics and Paralympics should be combined into one big sporting event.
"There are a lot of sporting codes that we have in the Paralympics that you don’t have in the Olympics, and a lot of sporting codes that you have in the Olympics that we don’t have in the Paralympics.
"It’s important they have their own platforms to be expressed upon. The athletes of the Paralympics, a lot of them say ‘we don’t want to be part of the Olympics, we think the Paralympics is better.’ So you know it’s important both are catered for."
Pistorius also praised London 2012 chair Seb Coe and LOCOG for their preparations of the event, saying "I really believe Lord Coe has done a phenomenal job in preparing this year’s Paralympic Games to be something that’sunprecedented from the past – I am extremely excited for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games."
Pistorius is hoping to qualify for the Olympics as well, but to be selected for the South African team he must run inside the 400m ‘A’ standard of 45.25 seconds between January and June 2012, a feat he already accomplished once in July 2011.
Djokovic Wants It All
The Laureus Sportsman of the Year Award went to Novak Djokovic, who proclaimed his excitement for London 2012 by saying the Olympics is the "most respected and valuable sporting event in history".
The tennis World No. 1 is looking forward to the Olympicsin London and said "I’m sure London will do a great job in hosting it. There’s already a great buzz in the city about it."
After claiming the bronze medal at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, the Serbian will be looking to add a gold medal to his collection of titles this year, which already includes last month’s Australian Open.
"The fact is I will prioritize majors and Olympic Games," he said. "It’s going to be interesting to see how the grass will recover after Wimbledon – it’s only 3 weeks time but I’m looking forward to it."
"I had a great grass season last year so we’ll see what happens this year."
With five Grand Slam titles to his name, the only one that has eluded him so far is the French Open.
When asked which tournament he would choose to win between the French Open and the London 2012 Olympics, he simply replied "Why not both?" before adding "It’s hard to choose because no one can predict the future. I will try to set up my form for Roland Garros, first of all, then I will start thinking about Wimbledon and the Olympics."
Reported in London by Christian Radnedge
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