"Blade Runner" Pistorius focuses on able-bodied events

By Ken Borland

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Double amputee Oscar Pistorius will be focusing on able-bodied events in the European leagues this year as he looks to become the first disabled athlete to compete in track and field at the Olympic Games.

The athlete known as the "Blade Runner" has set his sights on competing in the 2012 London Olympics and will exchange paralympic competition for top-class able-bodied events to improve his chances after failing to qualify for the 2008 Games.

"The European leagues are my big focus and I'll run in about 15 events, 12 of which will be able-bodied," the 24-year-old told Reuters at Johannesburg International Airport.

"The Paralympics World Cup in Manchester is also a priority and the South African Championships, so there's about 20 events I'd like to be a participant in this year."

Pistorius's bids to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2009 world championships in Berlin ended in failure. His training was hampered by a lengthy legal battle against the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

The IAAF had sought to ban him from competing against able-bodied athletes because they said his prosthetic blades gave him an unfair advantage. The Court of Arbitration for Sport lifted the ban in 2008.

Pistorius collected three gold medals and one silver at last week's International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Athletics Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand.

He clocked a championship-record 48.37 seconds in blustery conditions to win the 400 metres, also winning the 200m and anchoring South Africa to the 4x100m gold. He took silver in the 100m, losing out on the gold in a photo finish.

Pistorius, who was born with a congenital absence of the fibula in both legs, is confident he will be able to crank up his speed once the European season begins in three months.

"I've moved up my training to concentrate on the 400m and it's still early in the season, the most important part of which is May to September," said Pistorius, who clocked 21.80 seconds in the 200 metres and 11.34 in the 100 in New Zealand.

"So this is only my second month in training and I'm confident I will improve on those times, which weren't bad for this time of year."

(Editing by Sonia Oxley)