Pulse.ng logo
Go

Oscar Pistorius: A life in profile

  • Published: , Refreshed:

The athletic exploits of Oscar Pistorius had the world transfixed before everything changed on that fateful February night in 2013.

24/7 Live - Subscribe to the Pulse Newsletter!

Pistorius " dubbed Blade Runner - may have been an unknown 17-year-old when he won his first gold medal at the 2004 Athens Paralympics, but by the time he became the first amputee sprinter to compete in the Olympics themselves at London 2012, he was a global star with all the prestige, endorsements and fame that comes with it.

Then, on Valentine's Day last year, it all went horribly wrong when the South African shot dead his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in his Pretoria home, claiming he mistook her for an intruder.

Though cleared of Ms Steenkamp's "willful and intentional murder", Pistorius was charged with culpable homicide on Friday, which could see the athlete jailed for up to 15 years.

Here we examine the athlete's life before it was marred by controversy.

Oscar Leonard Carl Pistorius was born in November 1986 without a fibula in either of his legs. Faced with a life-changing choice, his parents made the difficult decision in consultation with medical advice to have Pistorius' legs amputated below his knees before he reached his first birthday.

Within six months of the operation, Pistorius was walking with a pair of prosthetic legs and was encouraged by his parents to think of himself as a normal, able-bodied child.

According to Tessa Shellard, who taught Pistorius at primary school, he participated in a plethora of different sports.

"He did rugby, cricket, football and absolutely everything else," she said.

By the time he reached Pretoria Boys High School, Pistorius was a sports-mad teenager who loved playing rugby.

But then tragedy struck when his mother died following an allergic reaction to treatment she received for suspected malaria when Pistorius was 15.

Pistorius sought solace in playing sport, but in 2003 shattered his knee playing rugby for his school.

On the advice of Dr Versfeld, the orthopaedic surgeon who had treated Pistorius since he was a baby, he took up track running to aid his rehabilitation from the injury and began training under the guidance of coach Ampie Louw at the Sports Science Institute at the University of Pretoria.

Pistorius took part in his first track session on New Year's Day in 2004 and, just three weeks later, entered a school 100-metre race that he won in a time of 11.72 seconds - faster than the then-existing Paralympic world record of 12.20secs.

The budding Paralympian was given his first pair of Ossur blades in June of that year. And, just eight months after first stepping onto the track, Pistorius stunned the athletics world by winning the T44 200m gold medal at the 2004 Athens Paralympics, breaking the world record with a time of 21.97s.

Success at the Paralympics prompted Pistorius to express his desire to compete with able-bodied athletes and he duly entered the South African Championships in March 2005, where he finished sixth in the 400m final.

Further success followed at the Paralympic World Cup in Manchester and in 2006 at the Paralympic Athletics World Championships, Pistorius topped the podium in the 100, 200 and 400m events, breaking the world record over 200m.

Pistorius saw more records tumble before him, setting world-record times in the 200m again and 100m at the same meeting in April 2007, the 400m benchmark followed in September the following year.

A dominance over disability sports helped Pistorius earn a regular spot competing against able-bodied athletes. He proved his talent by finishing second in the 400m B race at a July 2007 IAAF Golden Gala event at Rome's Olympic Stadium.

With Pistorius' capabilities against any opponent now confirmed, he set his sights on the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Before he could go about qualifying, talk that Pistorius' prosthetics handed him an advantage had to be disproven. However, tests in Germany found that he would benefit unfairly and the IAAF banned him from competing in able-bodied races in November 2007.

A successful appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport put Pistorius back into the picture but a lack of training and preparation hampered him in his efforts to reach China " ultimately falling just 0.70secs short of the 400m qualifying time.

Focus soon shifted to the Paralympics in Beijing and Pistorius became the first athlete in history to win gold in the 100m, 200m and 400m events in the T43/T44 category, setting a new Paralympic record of 47.49secs in the 400m.

By 2011, Pistorius was one of the most recognisable athletes on earth and had firmly set his sights on competing in the 2012 London Olympics.

Despite being beaten in the 100m for the first time in seven years in January that year, he bounced back during May's BT Paralympic World Cup to win the T44 400m and 100m in impressive times.

He went on to compete in a number of able-bodied races in the year and ran 400m under 46secs on three occasions, setting a personal best of 45.07secs in July, reaching both the World Championships and Olympic Games "A" standard qualification marks.

In August 2011 he was included in the South African team for the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, reaching the 400m semi-finals and helping his country set a new national record in the 4x400m relay. Despite not being selected for the line-up in the final, Pistorius' contribution in the heats earned him a silver medal " making him the first amputee to win an able-bodied world track medal.

The following year, Pistorius was included in South Africa's Olympic team to compete in the 400m and the 4 400m.

On August 4 2012, Pistorius became the first amputee runner to compete at an Olympic Games when he came second in his 400m qualifying heat with a time of 45.44secs " though he was eliminated at the semi-final stage again.

Pistorius was handed the anchor role in South Africa's 4x400m final effort " his run of 45.9secs helping his team finish eighth of nine participants.

In the subsequent London Paralympics, he was entered in the 100m, 200m and 400m in the T44 classification and the T42"T46 4 100m relay.

He set a new T43 world record of 21.30secs in his 200m heat, but lost the final to Alan Oliveira of Brazil. Pistorius complained about the length of Oliveira's prosthetic blades but was ultimately forced to apologise for his post-race outburst after it was shown that all the finalists' prosthetics had been measured before the race.

Fourth place was all Pistorius could manage in the 100m but gold medals did follow in the 4x100m " with a world-record time of 41.78secs in tow " and the 400m, where Pistorius set a new Paralympic record to end the Games on a high.

It was just a few short months later that all his athletic achievements were forgotten after the news broke on Valentine's Day 2013 that he had shot dead Ms Steenkamp.

Do you ever witness news or have a story that should be featured on Pulse Nigeria?
Submit your stories, pictures and videos to us now via WhatsApp: +2349055172167, Social Media @pulsenigeria247: #PulseEyewitness & DM or Email: eyewitness@pulse.ng. More information here.