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'Blade Runner' to hit the Olympic track again, this time at Paralympics

LONDON -- The Olympic rings have disappeared across London, and the Paralympic symbols hoisted in their place. Let the games begin — again.

Thousands of athletes have already arrived for Wednesday's opening ceremony as the Paralympics return to their roots.

The familiar face of Oscar Pistorius and his even more recognizable blades have helped to take the Paralympic movement to the masses — with 2.3 million tickets already sold.

August has been a groundbreaking month for Pistorius.

The South African will be defending the three titles won four years ago at the Beijing Paralympics, just weeks after becoming the first amputee sprinter to compete at the Olympics.

“I am incredibly excited to be back in London,” said Pistorius, who raced in the 400 meters and 4x400 relay earlier this month in the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium. “It was an incredible experience to compete at the Olympic Games and the reception from the crowd I will remember for the rest of my life.”

The 25-year-old Pistorius had to contend with battles on and off the track to become the poster boy of the Paralympics, where he will be competing over 100, 200 and 400.

“He is massive,” London organizing committee chairman Sebastian Coe said. “In Trafalgar Square this time last year for International Paralympic Day, (there was) a queue of kids who were screaming his name out and wanting autographs.”

But Coe stressed that the medals “are not nailed on for him” at the Paralympics.

“Sport is at its best when you have head to heads,” he added.

The thrilling duel should come in the 100, with Pistorius no longer the fastest man on no legs.

The “Blade Runner” experienced his first defeat in Paralympic competition in seven years when Jerome Singleton of the United States beat him by 0.002 seconds to win the 100 world title last year, while Jonnie Peacock of Britain has the world record.

“The 100m will be the most competitive 100m race I believe we will have ever seen at the games,” Pistorius said.

“I am very well aware of the competition that's out there and I've never been one to be too self-assured or too brash,” he added. “I'm comfortable with where I am, as far as my speed work goes on the 100m but I'm very well aware that the other guys are posting quick times.”

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(Torchbearer Simon Richardson lights the Paralympics Cauldron outside City Hall in Cardiff, Wales, Monday, Aug. 27. The 2012 Summer Paralympic Games will be the 14th Paralympics and will take place Wednesday, Aug. 29 to Sept. 9. (AP/AFP)

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