Oscar Pistorius: The life of Blade Runner
Athlete Oscar Pistorius, the world’s most famous Paralympian and the first to compete in the able-bodied Olympics, has a notoriously complex love life.
Prior to their split late last year, Oscar Pistorius spent a year and a half dating Cape Town marketing student Samantha Taylor.
But even while he was with Samantha Taylor, he was linked with numerous other women, including Russian model Anastassia Khozissova.
Oscar Pistorius was first seen with Reeva Steenkamp at an awards ceremony in South Africa last November. At the time, the FHM model said the pair were “just friends”.
When it became clear that Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp were in fact dating, the sportsman’s then ex-Samantha Taylor said: “Oscar has such a way with women. She’s probably not the only one he’s got.”
Samatha Taylor went on to tell South Africa’s City Press newspaper that “Oscar is certainly not what people think he is”.
Oscar Pistorius has a history of risk taking and violence.
In November last year, Oscar Pistorius reportedly “threatened to break the legs” of the friend of a man whom he believed had slept with his then girlfriend, who is not Reeva Steenkamp.
According to newspaper reports, Oscar Pistorius approached South African football player Marc Batchelor in the VIP room of a horse racing track and verbally threatened him.
In 2009, Oscar Pistorius spent a night in police cells after a woman complained to police that he had assaulted her during a party at his house.
The incident allegedly occurred at the same Silver Woods home as where Reeva Steenkamp died.
Although Oscar Pistorius was charged with assault, he was eventually released with a warning.
At the time, police spokeswoman Sergeant Marinda Stoltz said the victim, whom Oscar Pistorius had told to leave, banged and kicked his front door.
“He [Oscar Pistorius] told the girl <<this is my house and my friends and you have to leave>>. He then started closing the door when a wooden beam weighing about 1,5kg fell on her leg and injured her.”
Marinda Stoltz said the girl reported the incident hours later.
“The girl then also admitted that she had been drinking,” she said.
Oscar Pistorius’ determination to succeed also seems to be accompanied by a taste for danger.
He has a large collection of sports cars and motorbikes and he routinely sleeps with a pistol next to his bed and a machine gun by a window.
In an interview in the New York Times entitled The Fast Life of Oscar Pistorius, he invited the reporter to a gun range where he taught him how to shoot.
The reporter said: “He [Oscar Pistorius] fetched his 9-millimeter handgun and two boxes of ammunition. We drove to a nearby firing range, where he instructed me on proper technique.
“Pistorius was a good coach. A couple of my shots got close to the bull’s-eye, which delighted him. <<Maybe you should do this more>>, he said. <<If you practiced, I think you could be pretty deadly>>. I asked him how often he came to the range. <<Just sometimes when I can’t sleep>>.”
In 2008, Oscar Pistorius broke two ribs and had 172 stitches in his face when he crashed a boat into a submerged pier on a river south of Johannesburg.
In an interview published last year the sportsman admitted that his got the large tattoo – a quote from Corinthians – on his shoulder on a whim.
“I went into an all-night tattoo parlour,” he told the New York Times Magazine.
“Some Puerto Rican guy did it. It took from 2 a.m. to about 8:30.
“I think he was falling asleep after a while, which is why it’s a little squiggly at the bottom.”
In the magazine feature, the author concluded that Oscar Pistorius “is more than a little crazy”.
Oscar Pistorius was born 26 years ago into a prominent family in Pretoria without fibulas, the outer of the bones that run between the knee and the ankle.
His parents, Sheila and Henke Pistorius, grappled with information, complied with doctors’ advice, and at 11 months his legs were amputated below the knee.
“It was a hugely emotional decision,” said Dr. Gerry Versfeld, the orthopaedic surgeon who performed the operation.
“It is easier now to convince somebody the right way to go is amputation because Oscar Pistorius is an icon you can point to and say, <<Look, this is possible>>.”
Much of his success is attributed to the fact he was always treated as a “normal little boy”.
By the time he arrived at Constantina Kloof Primary School aged five, Oscar Pistorius had been walking on his rigid glass fibre prosthetic legs for almost four years. Usually he ran.
One of Oscar Pistorius’s first memories is hurtling down a hill on a go-kart with his brother, Carl, who then decided to use one of Oscar’s prostheses as an impromptu brake to stop them crashing.
“My brother was like my hero when I was growing up,” said Oscar Pistorius.
“He’s a year and a bit older. We’re still very close. We stayed on a plot that was near an informal settlement, like a township, and we used to go and play football with the kids there and we used to have so much fun.
“We would build tree houses in the holiday and we had motorbikes on a track in our garden. It’s nice to have someone who pushes you to do things. You’re always trying to compete with him.”
Oscar Pistorius was in high school when he showed up at Jannie Brooks’s garage gym in Pretoria, South Africa, with a group of friends looking to get fitter.
He boxed, skipped and did press-ups until he threw up. It was six months before Jannie Brooks realized he had no legs.
“He was just one of the bunch, doing everything at the same pace as everybody else,” he said.
“Between the classroom and the fields there were two sets of stairs,” said Tessa Shellard, who taught Oscar Pistorius maths and PE.
“I used to cringe because he would always run down. I closed my eyes waiting for him to fall. But he never did.
“His legs would chafe and give him enormous blisters on his stumps but he did rugby, cricket, football and absolutely everything else.
“He wasn’t quick at all because of his heavy legs but in inter-house athletics, Oscar would do the sprints every year knowing full well he would come last.”
His can-do attitude made him popular with classmates. During annual triathlons, one friend would carry him on his back while carrying his legs. When it came to the swimming, he threw his legs on to the side of the pool and dived straight in. At cycling, Oscar Pistorius would do 20 km stretches as a 12-year-old without complaint.
Hugh Herr, director of the Biomechatronics Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a close friend of Oscar Pistorius, said his quick cycling is because his hips are a “huge engine”. This also allows him to reposition his limbs quicker and complete the 400 m, his favored event, in a personal best of 45.07sec, a time never thought possible for an amputee.
At 13, Oscar Pistorius began boarding at Pretoria Boys School.
“During the admissions interview I had concerns about how a legless boy would fare with the rough and tumble of a school of 1500 teenagers,” said Bill Shroeder, headteacher of the school until 2009.
“All his mother could say was, <<Of course he’ll cope>>. That was how she brought him up – to be completely normal.”
Oscar Pistorius went down in school folklore when, during a rugby match, a player from the opposite team tackled him.
“His legs came off in the boy’s arms,” said Bill Shroeder.
“But he carried on running over the line, I think the other kid still has nightmares.”
Oscar Pistorius threw himself into sport following his mother’s death when he was 15, but suffered a knee injury playing rugby in 2003. He did athletics as a form of rehab at the University of Pretoria.
Less than a year later, Oscar Pistorius lit up the Athens Paralympics aged 17, winning gold in the 200 m and bronze in the 100 m in the T44 class, which also includes single below-the-knee amputees.
“Within months he was an icon,” said Bill Shroeder.
“My biggest challenge was keeping a teenager who was the envy of every kid on the straight and narrow.”
He was expected to take home a haul of paralympic golds at London 2012 but failed to deliver.
His first final was in the 200 m, where he finished a shock second to Brazilian Alan Oliveira and accused rivals in an angry outburst, including his young conqueror, of running on blades that were too long.
Then Oscar Pistorius had to settle for fourth place in the 100 m individual event when the glory went to Britain’s new track icon, Jonnie Peacock.
But this defeat and the outburst were followed by a measure of redemption when Oscar Pistorius anchored his country’s 4 x 100 m relay gold in a world record time.
Books and memorabilia of heroes from Nelson Mandela to Iron Mike Tyson, from Sir Bobby Charlton to Valentino Rossi, now fill the shelves and walls of his Pretoria home, a sprawling mansion on the Silverwoods Golf Estate, where he allegedly shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp at 4:00 a.m. this morning.
Oscar Pistorius allegedly shot her four times in the head, chest and arms with a 9 mm handgun.
Local media have claimed Oscar Pistorius did so either by accident in a Valentine’s Day surprise gone wrong or having mistaken Reeva Steenkamp for an intruder.
Neither claim has been confirmed.
Oscar Pistorius’ father Henke, meanwhile said: “If anyone makes a statement, it will have to be Oscar. He’s sad at the moment.”
His publicist, Peet van Zyl, said: “Oscar is a humble person and lovely guy – am sure what’s happened was terrible mistake.”
Oscar Pistorius’ sporting trophies, including the first award he won as a 12-year-old wrestler and that famous TV camera that marks him out as a recipient of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award for remarkable courage in the face of adversity, take up the space next to the whisky cabinet and pictures of his racehorses.
The sportsman, once voted South Africa’s sexiest celebrity now earns more than $1.5 million a year in deals to promote everything from perfume to groceries and telecommunications.
If Oscar Pistorius is charged and convicted with murder, he is unlikely to serve life in prison as the country’s full term imprisonment rule only kicks in for premeditated murder.
But there is also a chance he may escape punishment.
In 2004 charges against a South African rugby player who shot and killed his daughter were dropped when the country’s prosecuting agency decided he had suffered enough.
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