London 2012: History boy Oscar Pistorius signs off with a smile

Olympic rings at London St Pancras

Most athletes would not have a smile on their face after finishing last in an Olympic semi-final, but then Oscar Pistorius is no ordinary athlete.

The South African made history on Saturday by becoming the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics and on Sunday night was attempting to break another record by reaching the final of the men's 400m.

It was not to be, however. In an intimidatingly strong field, Pistorius, nicknamed the Blade Runner, was never really in with a shout. The 25-year-old, who fought a long battle for the right to enter the Games, finished in 46.54sec, the only disappointment being that he had run 45.44 in his heat on Saturday.

All eyes in the Olympic Stadium were still on Pistorius, though. Even those of the winner, Grenada's Kirani James, who made a point of swapping name tags with Pistorius after the race, the pair sharing a warm embrace.

"Oscar is special," said James, the world champion, who ran 44.59. "It's a memorable moment for me to be out there competing with him." The fastest qualifier was Trinidad & Tobago's Lalonde Gordon in a personal best of 44.58.

However British interest in the 400m ended after disappointing performances in all three races. Conrad Williams, despite impressing early on in the first heat, finished last in a time of 45.53 and it did not get better from there.

Nigel Levine was sixth in his heat, clocking a time of 45.56, and Martyn Rooney also failed to make the cut, finishing fifth in 45.31, which was 0.71 worse than his personal best.

For Britain's Perri Shakes-Drayton, the Olympic Stadium is almost her second home. The east Londoner can see the stadium from the end of her street and was in impressive form on Sunday night, winning her heat in the 400m hurdles to reach the semi-finals.

Shakes-Drayton, who was born and raised in Bow, dominated her race, running a convincing 54.62.

It was just off the personal best she ran at Crystal Palace last month, when the 23-year-old ran 53.77 at the London Grand Prix to register the joint second-fastest time in the world this year behind Russia's Natalya Antyukh. The Russian was the fastest qualifier, winning her heat in 53.90.

"It was really comfortable and it felt good as now I can safely say I'm through to the semis," said Shakes-Drayton, who ran an excellent anchor leg when Britain won gold in the 4x400m at the world indoor championships in March.

"It was really nerve-racking but I did what I had to do. I was just trying to look like I was keeping my cool but on the whole they were really good nerves."

Her team-mate Eilidh Child did not have it as easy. She made hard work of what appeared to be a straightforward heat, one made even easier by two of her competitors crashing to the track. The 25-year-old Scot finished third in 56.14 to join Shakes-Drayton in the semi-final.

"Coming round the final bend I thought: 'Just get your butt in gear and get moving,'" she said. "Luckily in the home straight I knew I was in the top four comfortably and I thought, 'Just keep working'.

"I don't know if I just got a bit too nervous at the start – maybe let the occasion get to me a bit – so hopefully now I've got that out the way I can just focus on the next race.

"The second hurdle was where it all went wrong and after that I don't know what stride pattern I was doing, but it was all just really stuttery down that back straight. I think I've given my whole family, who are here, and my coach a heart attack watching that to be honest."

There was no joy for Britain in the semi-final of the men's 1500m as Andrew Baddeley and Ross Murray failed to make it through, finishing eighth and 10th respectively in their races.

Morocco's Abdalaati Iguider was the fastest qualifier, running an ominous 3:33.99. Kenya's Silas Kiplagat was second-fastest in 3:34.60.

"I had done everything right until 300 to go, I had stayed out of trouble and then the legs just weren't there," said Murray, who was on the verge of quitting athletics and becoming a holiday rep last year.

"These guys have had years of training behind them. I have had six or seven months.

"I may be all right in one-off races but in rounds I struggle a little more. I will use that as motivation to go to and train harder for [the world championships in] Moscow in 2013.

"Come a few days I will look back and I can't complain about what I have achieved.

"Right now, I feel I could have been better than that. It is one of those things. If I can get to the Olympic semi-final on seven months of training, what can I do after two years?"

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Jacob Steinberg, for The Guardian on Sunday 5th August 2012 22.46 Europe/London

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