In many ways, studying Pistorius is difficult. There's only one of him, and only one good study that uses his specific physiology. There are no other Olympic-level double amputees, and single-leg amputees run totally differently. Imagine your right leg could swing 10 percent faster than your left; your left leg simply could not keep up. A person with one prosthetic and one intact leg can only go as fast as his slowest leg—generally the biological one.
To complicate matters further, science doesn't totally understand how running works. "We really don't know exactly the mechanics of running," Dapena says. They have a working idea, he says, but it's possible that the forces Weyand and Kram are debating aren't important. "It's a good logic," he says, "but it's not necessarily down pat that way."
Weyland will not say outright whether or not Pistorius should be allowed to run in the Olympics. Perhaps, he says, the sprinter represents something more important than the dispute over his light, springy legs. "I admire the heck out of him," he adds. "He's an excellent athlete who's worked like crazy and persevered and overcome."
For Kram, whether Pistorius should run comes down to power. "Oscar derives all of his power from what he had for breakfast." Athletes should be in a different race only when motors or alternate power sources are introduced, he says. "When you're tired you can't just twist the throttle. You have to find that desire or have that physiological ability to push. That's what makes the Olympics special." It's what makes Pistorius special, too, Kram says. He's pushed his whole life.
Now Pistorius will represent South Africa in the 400-meter race and the 4 x 400-meter relay. And if there’s one thing everyone agrees on, it’s that the races will be intriguing to watch.