Singleton admits Pistorius rivalry

Despite having worked for NASA, Jerome Singleton concedes that beating Oscar Pistorius at next summer's Paralympics may be his toughest assignment yet.

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Despite being 25 years old, and having one of his legs amputated below the knee as a child, Singleton has packed more in to his lifetime than most could ever dream of.

Born without his right fibula, Singleton had to have the bottom half of his right leg amputated 18 months after his birth in Irmo, South Carolina.

The American's disability did not put him off trying to live life to the full, though. Using a prosthetic limb, Singleton competed alongside, and beat, South Carolina's able-bodied sprinters on the track and was also named among the state's top 100 American Football prospects.

His academic achievements were also impressive. He completed a double-major degree in mathematics and applied physics at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, before finishing off his studies with an industrial engineering degree at the University of Michigan.

He won internships with NASA and CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Physics in Geneva, Switzerland) in 2007 after the space agency sponsored his first degree.

"It was a NASA scholar so as part of that programme I went to NASA and worked in Cleveland, Ohio," Singleton explains, with a humble smile.

"I worked on two projects. I worked on the Mars landing and I got to work with the stereo imaging vescroscopy. That's a programme that scans your eyes and detect cataracts.

"In 2007 I got the internship at CERN and made my first Paralympic national team. Then I went to the Park City Math Institute in Park City, Utah. It was a busy time."

Singleton is a popular person among athletes on the Paralympic circuit and it is easy to see why.

Courteous and intelligent, he smiles and answers every question with a burst of energy that occasionally breaks out into laughter.

His confident persona has been moulded from a tough upbringing in which he was initially shunned by his peers.

"I was the only amputee in my area so it took time for me to start running around," he says. "You feel out of place. People say: 'What's up with you?' a lot, but that gave me a lot more self-confidence.

"I have always known that I have to be two or three times stronger than my able-bodied counterparts to succeed. It made me the man I am today."

The biggest challenge of Singleton's career is now less than a year away. Shortly after his 26th birthday, Singleton will take part in the 100 metres, the 200 metres and the 4x100 metres relay at the London Paralympics.

After his historic silver medal at the athletics world championships in Daegu, the media spotlight will firmly be on Pistorius going in to London, but the South African will not be the favourite for the 100m event thanks to Singleton's emergence.

Pistorius beat Singleton to gold in Beijing three years ago by a third of a second, but the American gained his revenge in January when he defeated the 'Blade Runner' at the IPC world championships in New Zealand.

The two are close friends off the track, but Singleton admits the rivalry between the two in competition is fierce.

"He's like the best friend you have that you always want to beat," Singleton says.

"London is going to a big, big deal. Now that I've finally beaten him, I think it's going to be amazing.

"Beating him had been bothering me for three years."

With organisers determined to sell out the Paralympics for the first time in history, the London Games can have no better advert than the duel between these two fascinating characters.

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