The South African double amputee track star, known as the Blade Runner or the Fastest Man on No L' />

Oscar Pistorius doesn't like the term disabled.

The South African double amputee track star, known as the Blade Runner or the Fastest Man on No Legs because of his carbon fibre artificial limbs, feels the term doesn't do justice to Paralympians like him.

His running times are not far off those of elite able-bodied runners, so it is hard to argue.

Last year he ran a personal best in a 400m race that was 0.07 seconds off the qualification standard for next year's London Olympics.

"If you know me, (disabled) is a word I have always fought. We always say differently abled," he says.

Pistorius, who will be a star attraction at the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) Athletics World Championships opening in Christchurch tomorrow, rose to prominence with performances that rivalled the able-bodied athletes.

Born without fibulas in both legs, Pistorius was 11 months old when limbs were amputated below his knees.

He played rugby in school, but after a serious knee injury, turned to athletics. In his first year as a runner, he claimed gold in the 200m at the 2004 Athens Paralympics, and never looked back.

He now has a stack of world records and Paralympic medals, along with a worldwide following.

But being a role model is something the 24-year-old says he can never get used to.

"Like when I get letters from kids or from parents whose child has done a project on me.

"It will always hit me as something that's very strange, and I'll always have a bit of a chuckle more than anything else.

"But the one thing that I have definitely realised is that there is a lot of responsibility if you are in that kind of position."

Paralympics New Zealand chief executive Fiona Pickering said the world championships was a rare chance for New Zealanders to see elite athletes in action first-hand.

"I believe there's a perception that disabled sport isn't comparable to Olympic sport. However, for those who have experienced what Paralympic sport is about, that would demystify that immediately."

Mrs Pickering said ticket sales for the world championships had initially been quite slow, but had picked up as the event drew closer.

TRACK FACTS
* The IPC (International Paralympic Committee) Athletics World Championships opens in Christchurch tomorrow - the first time the event has been held outside Europe.
* Almost 1100 athletes from 80 countries are attending, as well as 900 officials, and 800 volunteers.
* It will feature track and field events for athletes with disabilities such as spinal cord injury and cerebral palsy, as well as amputees and the visually impaired.
* It costs about $5 million to stage, but the economic benefit for New Zealand is estimated to be in excess of $72 million.

ON THE WEB
ipcathleticsworldchamps.com