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Jerome Singleton: Ready to race

By Amy Rosewater | Aug. 31, 2012, 9 p.m. (ET)

Watch as Jerome Singleton
says 'Thank You Mom'

Sprinter Jerome Singleton rattles off some of the top rivalries in sports:

Muhammad Ali had Joe Frazier.

Magic Johnson had Larry Bird.

And Oscar Pistorius has …

“You’re looking at him,” Singleton said with a smile.

As the world discovered during the Olympic Games in London, Pistorius, a double amputee runner from South Africa, can race with the best of them. He made history by qualifying to compete in 400-meter event and in the 4 x 400 relay. He also was chosen to carry South Africa’s flag in the Closing Ceremony.

But now Singleton, who nipped Pistorius by .002 to win the gold medal in the 100-meters (T43/44 class, 11.34 seconds) at the 2011 International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships in New Zealand, is more than ready for a rematch at the upcoming London 2012 Paralympic Games. Singleton literally launched himself to the finish line in New Zealand, flinging his head first the finish line for the photo finish.

Four years ago at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, Singleton finished second to Pistorius in the 100m by .03 of second. Singleton also was part of the gold-medal winning American 4 x 100 relay.

Their duel is expected to be close again in London.

The London Games began Aug. 29 and run through Sept. 9, and Singleton will compete in the 100m, 200m and the 4 x 100m relay. The big race between the rivals, the 100m, is set for Sept. 6.

“The rivalry is really important,” said Alana Nichols, a U.S. women's wheelchair basketball player who won a Paralympic gold medal in Beijing and one of Singleton’s teammates in London. “Often times, when people think of the Paralympics, they think of athletes overcoming disabilities and adversity. While that’s true, for us it’s about going and competing and winning. It’s about the rivalries. It’s about fighting and the fractions of a second between gold and silver.”

Competition will be even tougher in London for both Pistorius, who has focused more on the 400m than the 100m, and for Singleton. Among their chief competition will be American Blake Leeper and Britain’s Jonnie Peacock.

Leeper finished second at the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Trials - Track & Field earlier this summer in Indianapolis in 10.95 seconds, becoming the first U.S. competitor in his class to run the dash in under 11 seconds. Then he was named the Paralympic Athlete of the Month for July after tying Pistorius’ world record of 10.91 seconds in the T43 class. Leeper tied the mark July 14 at the Boiling Point Track Classic in Windsor, Ontario.

Peacock, who will have the home crowd cheering him on in London, beat Leeper and Singleton at the Paralympic Trials in a blistering speed of 10.85 seconds — the world record for single amputees.

"The 100 is going to be the tough one," Pistorius admitted in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "I've really changed in the last four years. I've dropped a lot of weight to accommodate the efficiency for the 400-meters and the guys have been training hard for that 100. I've got to defend my title there and it's going to be a challenge."

Although Singleton admires Pistorius for bringing attention to disabled athletes, saying, “A lot more people know more about the Paralympics because of Oscar.” He also warns that Pistorius should not take his Paralympic competition for granted.

“Don’t say you’re tired when you come to the Paralympics,” Singleton said. “It’s very hard (competition).”

The South Carolina native has his work cut out for him in London, but whether he comes home with a gold medal or not, he has a very bright future ahead of him. He had an academic scholarship at Morehouse College and wound up finishing his career with degrees in mathematics, applied physics and industrial engineering at the University of Michigan.

He has interned with NASA and CERN, a Geneva, Switzerland-based nuclear physics program.

As he told the British newspaper, The Guardian: “The first time I left the country was for academics and now athletics has given me the chance to do the same thing. I love sports and I love academics. I've been blessed twice.”

Singleton was born missing a tibia bone in his right leg and had a below-the-knee amputation when he was 18 months old. He played basketball, football and ran track in high school and even was named one of South Carolina’s top-100 football players. He discovered Marlon Shirley, a two-time Paralympic gold medalist in the 100m, and from then on was hooked on competing in the Paralympic Games.

Although Pistorius made headlines by competing in the Olympic Games, Singleton continues to focus on the Paralympic Games. Perhaps he might try to compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials one day, but said, “That isn’t important to me. The Paralympics is a great event and when you see Oscar and I race, sparks are going to fly.”

Amy Rosewater is a freelance contributor for USParalympics.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.

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