Oscar Pistorius

Part man, part carbon fibre, all heart. Since his first race in 2004, double amputee Oscar Pistorius has lived the ultimate story of athletic achievement against the odds. Right now, that tale is building up to another dramatic crescendo. Last year Pistorius qualified for the able-bodied athletics world championships.

Not satisfied with that feel-good headline, he went on to compete for South Africa in the 4 ×100m relay, earning a silver medal — a first for a disabled athlete. Since then he’s focused squarely on defending his three sprint titles at the 2012 Paralympics and earning a historic place at the Olympics themselves.

And despite the world’s excitement at his potential berth at the latter, Pistorius refuses the hype, calling the events “equally important” to him. His real goal for London, it seems, is one of principle. “If I can inspire people with disabilities,” he says, “then I’ve gone a long way to being fulfilled as a person.”

— Ian Macleod

Twitter: @OscarPistorius