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Local double amputee impressed by Olympic sprinter

5:36 AM, Aug 7, 2012   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's a perfect example of the Olympic spirit. A South African runner is drawing admirers from all over the world. Even though Oscar Pistorius failed to qualify for the men's 400 meter finals the fastest man on no legs is being declared a winner at the Olympics.

Pistorius is leaving a lasting mark on other amputees like Dan Nevins. Nevins says, "It's really opening the eyes of a lot of folks whether it be combat or car accident you name it to say 'Oh hey wow maybe my life isn't over.'"

Nevins knows what that type of inspiration feels like because he's a double amputee just like 25-year-old Oscar Pistorius. The South African track star became the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics, running on his space-age prosthetic legs in the first heat of the men's 400-meter race.

Nevins spent years as a competitive runner and says it's so difficult to do on prosthetic legs that he's never gone back to running. He says, "If you look at the science behind it - a double amputee expends close to 200 percent more energy just walking day to day. So for somebody like Oscar to run 400 meters - he's using so much energy and so many more muscles in his core and so much concentration and focus."

Pistorius runs on carbon-fiber blades that serve as his feet - but his participation has sparked controversy. Some say his prosthetic legs give him an unfair advantage. Nevins says, "I just laugh - how could you possibly think that this guy has an advantage? And then his prosthetics aren't like a pair of shoes you strap on and they're along for the ride they're such an intimate and intricate fit to those - if it's not 100 percent perfect it would be like running with a stubbed toe."

Pistorius was born without fibulas and had his legs amputated below the knee before he was a year old. Nevins, a veteran, lost his legs during the war in Iraq.  He adds, "It was four o'clock in the morning - I remember it specifically - my head was bowed in prayer like it is before every mission and boom the silence of that pre-dawn was destroyed by the deafening blast and sent my almost 19-thousand pound armored vehicle about six feet in the air in a ball of fire."

Nevins now works for Wounded Warrior Project in Jacksonville identifying and training other injured warriors to tell their stories in hopes of inspiring others much in the same way Pistorius is inspiring others too.  Nevins says, "You might not be able to do it the same way you did it before but you can still do anything you set your mind to."

Nevins says thanks to the Wounded Warrior Project he's had a chance to take part in snowboarding, wakeboarding, white water rafting, outrigger canoeing, kayaking and parasailing.

In the meantime the competition isn't over for Oscar Pistorius - he'll run in the 4 by 400 relays on Thursday before defending his 100, 200, and 400 titles at the Paralympics.

First Coast News

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