Marko Cheseto, a Kenyan distance runner recruited by the University of Alaska-Anchorage, made national news in November 2011 when he disappeared into the wilderness. Found two days later suffering from severe frostbite and hypothermia, both legs had to be amputated. Almost three years later, Cheseto is back to running with new legs and a new goal.
Now 31, Cheseto still lives in Anchorage, where he's finishing grad school and assisting with the track team. But after all the publicity around his experience, including an ESPN Outside The Lines documentary, a prosthetics company contacted him about becoming an ambassador for their products. In May of 2013, he received his first "Cheetah" blades, the same used by Oscar Pistorius.
Already Cheseto has been dubbed "The Kenyan Blade Runner," and he has several similarities with Pistorius. They both hold the same classification of disability, T43, referring to double below-the-knee amputation, and they both compete in the same event, the 400-meters. But the biggest difference is in talent. Pistorius, still just 27, focused on sprinting for years before running 45.07 seconds. Cheseto was a distance runner, and switching to such a radically different discipline like sprints at a later age is unlikely to produce the same results. To date, he's run 50 seconds, and in 2016 he's more likely to compete against other paralympians than against able-bodied runners.
But in Alaska, Cheseto become a foreign totem. "People ask me what inspired me to recover in such a short time and I tell them that we all have challenges of one nature or another and the important thing is to turn these challenges into opportunities," he told Daily Nation, adding, "There is absolutely nothing that I did with my feet that I cannot do now."