Interview with Oscar Pistorius - ¨They way you perceive yourself is the way others will perceive you¨

©Tom Jenkins

¨The way you perceive yourself is the way others will perceive you¨

In life as in sport, we are often faced with obstacles, challenges and adversities.  Yet it is how we react to them that ultimately determine whether we succeed or fail.  There is a well-defined line between those that continue to push relentlessly towards their ultimate goals and those who quit and see their dreams fade away because of ¨circumstance¨. 

It is often said that as you think, so you become.  And whether you think you can or you can’t you will always be right…

In the case of Oscar Pistorius, he has always believed he can.

Oscar was born with a defect in his legs and had them amputated at an early age. He grew up using prosthetics and although doctors told him that he would never walk-much less practice sport- he continued to believe in himself and proved that through hard work, discipline and self-confidence he could achieve anything in life, despite having no legs. 

Today Oscar is not only an outstanding Paralympian and inspirational speaker,  but is also looking to achieve his ultimate goal: compete in the able-bodied 2012 Olympics in London.  So far he is on track to do so. Earlier this month he ran inside the necessary qualifying time (45.20 seconds in the 400m) to give him his ticket to the summer games.  All he awaits now is the official confirmation by the South African Sports Confederation Olympic Committee to fulfill his dream.  

©Global Sports Forum


I had the great privilege of meeting Oscar at the 2011 edition of the Global Sports Forum held in Barcelona where he was one of the invited speakers.  During his presentation he inspired the entire audience as he retold his path to success and stressed how a positive outlook was essential to achieving his goals in life and sport.

After his talk I met up with him at the press room and had the chance to interview him personally.  I was particularly interested in finding out more about his mental strength and self-confidence to find out how he was able to overcome all the challenges in his life to become such an inspirational person for so many people. 

My interview with Oscar Pistorius is included below:

Diego Valdes – MotivaGoal  - In your talk this morning you said, ¨the way you perceive yourself is the way others will perceive you¨. Can you explain to us why you said this?

Oscar Pistorius – Growing up with a disability from a young age really changed the way I perceived it. My parents never gave me any reason to believe that having a disability was a bad thing.  So when I was confronted with primary school and people who had that expression, it was something that I never really bought into. I believed in the same sentiment that I had grown up with that, having a disability was just like, in the morning when my brother put his shoes on I put my prosthetic legs on, and that’s kind of where it ended.  But that is probably where I learned early on that that way you perceive yourself is the way others will perceive you.  

Kids often grow up with the perception that disability is a bad thing or a taboo thing, and you don’t talk about it, and because you don’t talk about it you don’t educate people about it. From a young age I learned that I perceived myself as being a kid that could try anything and did most sports.  People often saw me and their perceptions changed because they had the perception that if you had a prosthetic leg or you were in a wheelchair you weren’t able to do things that many other people did.  And I really enjoyed challenging the way they saw it. I perceived myself as being a kid that could do anything that I could put my mind into and I think very quickly people bought into that same notion.

Diego Valdés – MotivaGoal - You are an inspiration to many people. There are a lot of young athletes out there, so what is the advice you would give to them in order to achieve their goals?

Oscar Pistorius – For me, even today being an adult I have my role models and the guys I look up to in sports. Growing up I watched a lot of sports when I was young and I always appreciated sportsmen that sacrificed a lot and dedicated to not only being great on the sporting field but also really dedicated their time and effort to people. I have two or three sporting idols; one of them is here, Jonah Lomu, but also Frankie Fredericks and Colin Jackson who are both sprinters. They are guys who have achieved unbelievable amounts of success but they had to be able to sacrifice a lot.  

Not only in sports, but also if you look at a guy like Sir Richard Branson, who I believe is just in another league as far as his principles in life. It’s one thing to be a sportsman, but it is another thing to realize what being good at any sphere is about.  Anything in life, if you want to achieve something that is worthwhile achieving you have to sacrifice other things, but you better make that decision for yourself.  If it is worth sacrificing ¨x¨ to achieve¨ y¨, then it is a no-brainer. For every sportsman that succeeds, that is exactly it.  They sacrificed maybe time with their families, social lifestyle, but they were able to achieve things which for them are more important.  So for anyone who wants to get involved in sports and wants to be inspired just has to think about that, it is quite an easy mathematical equation. 

In life anything that is worth achieving has certain things that you have to give up. If it makes it worthwhile for you, then you are fine at the end of the day, you are so happy achieving that goal that you feel that you have worth and you have got something to live for and get addicted to.  So the more you do it the more addicted you become.  

Whether it is sports or business or in any sphere, somebody that is looking for inspiration can look at the exact same reasons that I look up to these people for, and that is their ability to surprise and people and sacrifice things in order to achieve what they have.

Diego Valdes – MotivaGoal - I know that you have a tight schedule, so I just want to say that it was an inspiration to listen to you this morning and we look forward to following your competitions later on.

Oscar Pistorius – Thank you very much, I appreciate it.

©Global Sports Forum

Note:  Oscar Pistorius was also present at the 2012 Global Sports Forum in Barcelona.  Although he did not have time for any personal interviews this time around, he did take the time to speak with me personally for a couple of minutes over the lunch break.  He remembered our interview from the previous year, and showed genuine interest in our project, demonstrating once more that he is a class-act on and off the track.

Thank you, Oscar. I look forward to seeing you line up at that starting blocks at the 2012 games.  On your marks, get set, go!

Diego Valdés, MotivaGoal with Oscar Pistorius at the 2011 Global Sports Forum Barcelona

Video interview included below. Apologies in advance for shaky image. 

Untitled from Diego Valdes on Vimeo.

Diego Valdés Rendón
Editor, MotivaGoal

MBA, Master in Sports Management
Twitter: @motivagoal

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