Oscar Leonard Pistorius was born on November 22, 1986. He was born with his fibular missing. Within a year, his legs were amputated below the knee. But his parents never treated him any differently to older brother Carl and younger sister Aimee.
He went to school with able bodied kids and played rugby for the Pretoria Boys High Third team. He played water polo and tennis, and even did a bit of wrestling. By all accounts he never cried foul. He wanted to be treated like everyone else, and was.
At the age of 17, he badly injured his knee playing rugby, and went to get rehab at the University of Pretoria’s High Performance Centre. Within eight months of taking up sprinting, he had won a Paralympic gold medal. Two years later he had won multiple medals in world events, had broken a bunch of world records, and had begun the fight to run against able-bodied athletes.
The Oscar Pistorius story is the stuff of Hollywood scripts. Success against all odds, enormous highs and debilitating lows, the only part missing now is the ending. But who is this young man, one of the most famous South Africans of all time, who finds himself at the centre of such a great tragedy. Whether his role is that of victim or villain, the courts will decide.
Until a year ago, he was riding the crest of a wave, counting some of the world’s most famous sportsmen and beautiful models as friends, and with some of the world’s richest companies as sponsors.
He began getting invitations to compete around the world and he decided that he wanted to run at the Olympics – the Olympics Games, not just the Paralympics.
But first he had to overcome scepticism about his blades. Pistorius was running faster than any other disabled athlete ever had. Was it natural talent, or were his blades giving him artificial spring? He underwent test after test, and lost. But he didn’t give up, and he eventually won the fight.
But he wasn’t selected for the South Africa Olympic team to Beijing, although at the Paralympics that year, he won all three sprint titles.
He worked hard, trained harder and was part of the SA team at the World Champs in 2011.
And it was then that the first sign of trouble appeared. He was arrested in 2009, accused of slamming the door on a woman in his home, but the charges were dropped. That was also the year of his boat accident on the Vaal River, after which he needed facial reconstructive surgery and serious rehab. There’ve always been questions about how much he’d had to drink that day.
His fight to take part in able-bodied events hadn’t ended. He worked hard, trained harder and was part of the SA team at the World Champs in 2011. There his time in the 400 heats gave him Olympics qualification.
And the accolades kept coming – The Order of Ikamanga, BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Awards for courage and achievement, Time Magazines List of the Worlds Most Influential People, a Laureus Award, and a doctorate from Strathclyde University.
In the lead up to the London Olympics, Pistorius was a bona fide world superstar. He was on posters all over London, he had as sponsorship deal with Thierry Mugler, he was having dinner with Hollywood stars and was meeting world leaders and royalty. He’d already had his meeting with Nelson Mandela.
At the London Olympics, a special news conference was set up just for him, because so many of the world’s media wanted to talk to him. And he was asked as many questions about his love life as about his training methods.
He reached the semi’s of the 400, and carried the flag at the closing ceremony, and then again at the opening of the Paralympics a few days later. He blotted his copybook somewhat though, when he complained about the blades used by Brazil’s Alan Oliviera, just moments after having been beaten in the 200, one of his best events. He went on to win two other gold medal.
Meanwhile, he was making enormous amounts of money, as the face of international advertising campaigns for the likes of Nike, British Telecom and Oakley. He was in the Italian version of Dancing with the Stars, and was a guest of Jay Leno.
Stories of Pistorius’ arrogance and aggression after drinking have been around for years. Should they have been taken as warning signs? Oscar can be charming, and pulled off the humble “I’m just an ordinary guy who got lucky” role very well.
His arrogance was nothing remarkable – it’s a hallmark of most successful sports men and women. There were stories of his obnoxious behaviour at restaurants and concerts doing the rounds long before Valentines’ Day of 2013.
The question now is does he think he can get away with murder, or is he really the victim, as his lawyers claim, of a South African tragedy?
Major sports Achievements according to: http://oscarpistorius.com
GOLD: T43/44 200m, 2004 Paralympic Games, Athens
BRONZE: T43/44 100m, 2004 Paralympic Games, Athens
GOLD: T43/44 100m, 2008 Paralympic Games, Beijing
GOLD: T43/44 200m, 2008 Paralympic Games, Beijing
GOLD: T43/44 400m, 2008 Paralympic Games, Beijing
GOLD: T43/44 4x100m relay, 2012 Paralympic Games, London
GOLD: T43/44 400m, 2012 Paralympic Games, London
SILVER: T43/44 200m, 2012 Paralympic Games, London
The Order of Ikamanga,
BBC Sports Personality of the Year
Helen Rollason Awards for courage and achievement,
Time Magazines List of the Worlds Most Influential People,
Doctorate from Strathclyde University
– By Janet Whitton