Jacqueline Singleton

Jerome Singleton, Paralympic champion

South Africa's Oscar Pistorius, arguably the most famous  cheetah-footed athlete of our time, hadn't lost in the 100 meters in a major competition since the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games. Until Wednesday.

Jerome Singleton of the United States out-leaned Pistorius at the tape to win the category T44 100 meters at the International Paralympic Committee track and field world championships in Christchurch, New Zealand.

It's immediately unclear, of course, how the result plays out for Pistorius. It arguably is the best thing that could have happened to Paralympic sport.

There never has been, really, a great Paralympic rivalry to capture the world's attention. Now, maybe, there can be one.

It is unequivocally fantastic for the Paralympics and for Pistorius -- the "Blade Runner" -- that he has emerged as the world-class talent that he is. The logical next step is for the world to see that he is far from alone.

In the same spirit, while Pistorius is an amazing story -- Singleton is, too.

In a telephone interview as Thursday dawned in New Zealand, Singleton said of Pistorius, "Oscar is a phenomenal athlete. He has broken down barriers for the Paralympic movement. He has opened people's eyes -- that is, if you have a disability, you can take it to the next level …

"Oscar lets you know that you can do better and be better. You can look at the cup as half empty or half full -- or always look at it as half full and try to fill it even more."

Turning the focus to the track, stressing again that he views Pistorius as a "great person" and praising him as the longtime champion, Singleton also said, "Muhammad Ali had Joe Frazier. Larry Byrd had Magic Johnson. Usain Bolt has Tyson Gay," emphasizing, "In track and field, you want rivalries."

Like Pistorius, Singleton is 24 years old. Singleton comes from South Carolina. He has an older sister, Shalena, 29, and a younger brother, Anthony, 21. Jerome has earned three university degrees in the past six years, from Morehouse College and Michigan, and in these disciplines: math and applied physics, and industrial and operational engineering.

Singleton won a silver medal at the Beijing Games in the 100, behind Pistorius. Understand -- he won silver while going to school in highly demanding fields of study.

Singleton finished school in Ann Arbor in December. Now he gets to train full-time.

Again, and for emphasis -- now he can train full-time.

Singleton lost his right foot when he was just a year and a half old, in the wake of a birth defect, he said. His father, also named Jerome, and mother, Jacqueline, stressed the value of hard work and dedication. The son's high school grade point average was better than a 4.0; he also played high-school football, basketball and ran track.

"Being an amputee, unless I was two times or three times as good as my competitors, [a coach] was always going to choose an able-bodied competitor," the son says now, his father's words with him still.

"My dad also said, when you're a single-legged amputee you're not going to have the ability to turn as quickly. I was just going to have to work and to work smart."

He ran a smart race Wednesday in what was, by any measure, a great race. All seven finishers crossed in under 12 seconds. Only nine-hundredths of a second separated the first- and fourth-place finishers. Both Singleton and Pistorius were timed in 11.34.

Singleton won because he leaned so hard he fell over the line. "There's a lot of me that won't be leaving New Zealand," he told reporters immediately afterward. "But it was all worth it."

Pistorius, to his credit, told reporters in New Zealand after the race, referring to Singleton, "He was the better man on the day. He has been improving all the time and he is a champion in the making."

The 400-meter relay comes Saturday.

The Paralympic Games -- in London in 2012. "I brought the worlds back," Singleton said on the phone. "Now it's time to bring back the big one."