Beauty And The “Blade Runner”

Oscar Pistorius & Reeva Steenkamp at an event

As much as I love and support the idea of the Paralympics, I must admit that I have never really watched them. I enjoy watching the highlights and hearing about them though. With that being said, Oscar Pistorius was a name that didn’t pop up on my radar until February 2013 when the murder of his girlfriend the gorgeous, Reeva Steenkamp broke on the news. Between 2013 and 2015 Pistorius had heavy media coverage but not for his accomplishments representing South Africa in the Paralympics. 

Oscar Leonard Carl Pistorius was born on November 22, 1986 (his birthday was yesterday and I hope it was an unhappy one), in Sandton, Johannesburg, the Transvaal Province (now Gauteng Province) of South Africa, to Henke and Sheila Pistorius. Pistorius often credits his Mom as having a huge impact on his life, she unfortunately passed away when Pistorius was 15. She was very young when she passed, only 43-years-old, I am not sure what her cause of death was.  

Oscar was born with the rare condition fibular hemimelia, people who suffer from this condition are born with an absence of fibula bones in both legs. This often results in the legs being amputated at the young age, and Pistorius was no acceptation. When he was just 11-months-old Oscar had both legs amputated between his knees and ankles, this also resulted in the loss of both feet. This did not stop Pistorius from being a bright and intelligent child who excelled in school. He is fluent in both Afrikaans and English, which I must admit is impressive. His family has said Oscar never let his condition make him feel different than any other child or teenager growing up and he always put his all into everything he did. 

Oscar Pistorius attended Constantia Kloof Primary School and Pretoria Boys High School where he played rugby. Between the ages of 11 and 13 he played water polo while also taking part in club Olympic wrestling. Good on him for not letting his condition keep him from doing the things he wanted to. Pistorius trained at Jannie Brooks’ garage gym in Pretoria. Brooks once told the media that it took six months before he noticed that Pistorius “had no legs” because he excelled at all the training exercises that were thrown his way. Oscar learned about his love for running in January 2004, while attending rehab for recovery from a serious knee injury he obtained while playing rugby in June 2003.

Oscar Pistorius earned the nick name blade runner after the world saw him race down the track while wearing his running blades, a special type of prosthetics used by avid runners and other athletes. His first racing blades were fitted by South African prosthetist Francois van der Watt. Because he was unable to find suitable running blades in Pretoria, Van der Watt ordered the pair to be made by a local engineer. However, these quickly fell apart and Van der Watt referred Pistorius to American prosthetist and Paralympic sprinter Brian Frasure to be fitted for blades by Icelandic company, Össur. I don’t like Pistorius by any means but while being interviewed he gave a quote that actually resides with me and I do find rather inspiring, “You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have; you are able by the abilities you have.” That doesn’t mean you become a murderer, Oscar! 

Pistorius competed in T44 (single below-knee amputees) events though he is classified in T43 (double below-knee amputee), I had to look this up guys, I’m not that smart. As well as the name “Blade runner” he was sometimes known as “the fastest man on no legs”. Pistorius took part in the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens and came third overall in the T44 100-meter event. Despite failing in the preliminary round of the 200-meter even he somehow made it to the finals. Which he went on to win and in a world record time of 21.97 seconds, beating a pair of American runners, Marlon Shirley and Brian Frasure, both with single amputations. At the 2005 Paralympic World, he took home gold in the 100- and 200-meter events, beating his previous 200-meter world record. At the 2006 IPC Athletics World Championships, Pistorius won gold in the 100-, 200- and 400-metre events, breaking the world record over in the 200-meter. On March 17, 2007 (Happy St. Patrick’s Day!) he set a disability sports world record in the 400-meter event, at the South African Senior Athletics Championships in Durban; running it in 46.56 seconds. In April that same year he set another record at the Nedbank Championships for the Physically Disabled held in Johannesburg. Becoming the world record holder of the 100- and 200-meter events with times of 10.91 and 21.58 seconds, respectively. 

On July 13, 2007, Pistorius ran in the 400-meter race at Rome’s Golden Gala and finished second in run B with a time of 46.90 seconds, behind Stefano Braciola who ran 46.72 seconds. Both these dudes are f****** fast ya’ll. Pistorius had big ambitions and wanted to compete in “non-disabled” events. In particular, he had set his sights on competing at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China, but was not selected by the South African Olympic Committee. Let me back pedal a bit, he was invited to participate in what would have been his first “non-disabled event” the IAAF Grand Prix in Helsinki, Finland but was not able to attend due to school commitments. I think he was in college or something. Shortly before the 2008 Paralympics Oscar Pistorius’ running blade became a topic of controversy. Some people believed that the J-shaped carbon-fiber prostheses (called the “Flex-Foot Cheetah”) he used during his running gave him an unfair advantage over runners who have “natural ankles and feet”. On March 26, 2007, the IAAF amended its competition rules to include a ban on the use of “any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides a user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device”. The IAAF claims that the amendment was not specifically aimed at Pistorius. 

In November 2007, Pistorius was invited to take part in a series of scientific tests at the German Sports University Cologne under the guidance of Professor of Biomechanics Dr Peter Brüggemann in conjunction with Elio Locatelli, who was responsible for all technical issues in the IAAF. After 2 days of tests, Brüggemann reported on his findings on behalf of the IAAF. The report claimed that “Pistorius’s limbs used 25% less energy than runners with complete natural legs running at the same speed, and that they led to less vertical motion combined with 30% less mechanical work for lifting the body”. So basically, he has an unfair advantage against other runners. Pistorius appealed against the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (I didn’t even know that existed) in Lausanne, Switzerland, and appeared before the tribunal in April 2008. After a 2-day hearing, CAS upheld Pistorius’ appeal on May 18, and the IAAF council decision was revoked with immediate effect. I guess it is true what they say, your greatest advocate is yourself.

CAS panel unanimously determined that Brüggemann tested Pistorius’ biomechanics at full-speed when he was running in a straight line and did not look at the disadvantages Oscar has at the start and acceleration phase of a race. Pistorius would later tell the media: “My focus throughout this appeal has been to ensure that disabled athletes be given the chance to compete and compete fairly with non-disabled athletes. I look forward to continuing my quest to qualify for the Olympics”. He may not have qualified for the 2008 summer Olympics but we would see Pistorius compete in the 2012 London summer Olympics. So, I might have lied earlier, I forgot all about that. Maybe that is the first time Pistorius’ name made a blip on my radar. On August 4, 2012, Pistorius became the first ever amputee runner to compete at an (“non-disabled”) Olympic Games. Oscar Pistorius was also nominated and chosen to carry the South African flag for the closing ceremony. Rightfully so, dude managed to do something no other amputee had done before.  Pistorius also competed in the 2012 Paralympics where he again carried the South African flag during the opening ceremony on August 29th.

Now on his personal life and the good stuff, you guys know I have to get all the of the boring crap out of the way first. Pistorius has two visible tattoos: the dates of his mother’s birth and death (“LVIII V VIII – II III VI”) are tattooed on the inside of his right arm; the other tattoo, which is on his back, is the Bible verse 1 Corinthians 9:26–27 which begins, “I do not run like a man running aimlessly.” I just thought that was a cool little tidbit. Now on to the good stuff, I promise. Oscar Pistorius was first linked to beautiful South African model Reeva Steenkamp in November 2012 when the two attending a sports gala together shortly after the Olympics. Pistorius had a way with women and Steenkamp was just one in a line of models he had dated prior to her. His ex-girlfriends told the media that Pistorius boyish good looks, charm, talents, and cocky attitude is how he often captured women’s attention, Reeva Steenkamp was no acceptation to that, much to her misfortune.  

The couple only dated for 3 months before Reeva Steenkamp’s demise, but a turbulent 3 months it was. Steenkamp often told friends that she was scared of Pistorius and his volatile attitude. After text messages were retrieved from Steenkamp’s phone one that she sent to Pistorius stood out: “scared of you sometimes and how u snap at me and of how you will react to me.”. It had come out that Pistorius had a track record of being abusive to his ex-girlfriends. In 2014 one of Oscar Pistorius’s ex-girlfriends Samantha Taylor told a magazine called The Mirror that; “Pistorius left her scarred and bruised and used to lock her in his house with no food.”. Taylor claimed that on one occasion Pistorius had become so irate she had to hide his gun from him. June Steenkamp told the media that in hindsight the relationship showed signs of being volatile and toxic early on but at the time nobody picked up on them.  

In the early morning hours of February 14, 2013 Oscar Pistorius placed a call to local authorities claiming that he had accidently shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp when he mistook her for an intruder. When the Police arrived to the home Pistorius claimed that he was woken up by movement coming from the bathroom and believing it was an intruder. He claimed that he didn’t have his prosthetics on because he was sleeping and fearing that he had no way of defending himself or running from the intruder he stood on his stumps near the top of the bed and fired 4 shots through the closed bathroom door. Upon further investigation of the body and the crime scene the police began to believe this was an intentional homicide. The bullet wounds indicated that Steenkamp was not in the bathroom because she was using the toilet and that she was crouching down in a defensive position behind the locked door.

  Further questions would soon arise. Why would an intruder lock themselves in a bathroom, why would Reeva Steenkamp have her phone with her in a bathroom at 4:00am? When most people wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, they do their business and return back to bed. When police arrived, they found Pistorius standing on his stumps (for lack of a better word) next to Steenkamps body, which he carried down the stairs to the main floor on the building, he was visibly upset. That is when he told police that he didn’t have on his prosthetics to defend himself and that there was not enough time for him to grab them and put them on.

But the bullets holes in the door appeared be at a downward slant and when investigator Detective Hilton Botha, who was roughly Pistorius height when wearing his prosthetics stood by the bed and pretended to fire a gun at the door, he believed the bullets would have ended up right where the holes were. This gave him a rough idea where the bullets might hit and contrary to what Pistorius had said about being not having his prosthetics on the evidence showed that he was very much wearing them when the gun was fired. 

Oscar also claimed that he was standing near the top of the bed at the time of the shooting but the location of the shell casings showed that he was less than 5 feet away from the door when the shots were fired. Detective Botha also wondered why Pistorius would enter the bathroom after the shooting if he believed an intruder was in there at the time. Authorities felt there were too many inconsistences between the physical evidence and Pistorius’s story. The next day, February 15, 2013, Oscar Pistorius was arrested and charged with the murder of Reeva Steenkamp.   

On February 22, 2013 Pistorius was released on 1 million Rand (I believe it is written as R1 million) which is $113,000 bail after Chief Magistrate of Pretoria, Desmond Nair, determined that he was not a flight risk. The trial started on March 3, 2014 in the High Court in Pretoria. Pistorius was facing a first-degree murder charge a charge of illegal possession of ammunition and 2 charges of firing a gun in a public space. Is your own home really a public space though, he was in his own flat at the time of the shooting? Judge Thokozile Masipa was assigned to the trail and selected appointed two assessors, Janette Henzen du Toit and Themba Mazibuko, to help her evaluate the case and reach a verdict as the jury system in South Africa was abolished during apartheid. I’m not 100% sure what that is, I just know that it has something to do with institutionalized racial segregation and was ended in the early 1990’s. I’m sorry but that is too recent to have segregation still going on. Disgusting. Actually, I don’t care how long ago it was, it never should have happened in the first place, anywhere in the world, PERIOD! 

In his opening statement read out by Pistorius family lawyer Kenny Oldwage, Pistorius said he believed Steenkamp was in bed when he shot at what he thought was an intruder behind the toilet door, and that he had spoken to her in bed shortly beforehand. He admitted to killing Steenkamp, but denied the charge of murder, he also plead not guilty on the other charges being brought against him. The defense would build their whole case around a self-defense theory. During the first and second day of the trial an unknown witness testified that they heard sounds of arguing for about an hour on the morning of the shooting and believed it to be Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp. Five other unknown witnesses testified that they heard a woman screaming and gun shots around the time of Steenkamp’s death. 

The next day the defense cross examined the prosecutions witnesses. They sought to establish that the “argument” they heard that early morning was in fact Pistorius screaming for help and that the “explosive sounds” heard was the door to the toilet being battered down. Would busting down a door really be as loud as gun shots? Like, come on my dudes. Pistorius’ neighbor, Johan Stipp, a radiologist, testified that he found Pistorius praying over Steenkamp’s body when he went over to help after being woken by what he described as the sound of gunshots and a woman screaming. Stipp testified that the first thing he remembered Pistorius saying when he saw him was “I shot her. I thought she was a burglar. I shot her.” Stipp also testified that the light was on in the bathroom and he saw someone moving as a woman screamed. The next day a former girlfriend of Oscar Pistorius and the security guard on duty that night at the estate where Pistorius lived testified. Although it was never released what exactly they said while on the stand. By the 6th day of the trial Pistorius vomited multiple times in court as the state pathologist delivered graphic testimony about the nature of Steenkamp’s injuries.  

On March 24, 2014 text messages from both Steenkamp and Pistorius home was shared in the courtroom. Witnesses say 90% of the messages were relatively normal ones that couples would send to one another. But there were the select few where Steenkamp accused Pistorius of being jealous and possessive. On March 25th the state rested it cased, having called 20 witnesses to the stand out of a possible 107. On March 28, 2014 the trial was recessed until April 7th after one of the assessors fell ill. Once the court was back in session Pistorius took the stand in his own defense. The cross examination of Pistorius lasted for five days, and ended on April 15th. Re-examination by defense lasted less than10 minutes, during which the defense asked Pistorius to read from a Valentine card which Steenkamp had given the athlete. Steenkamp had written: “I think today is a good day to tell you that, I love you”. Pistorius previously testified that he opened the card on Steenkamp’s birthday August 19th. On May 5th, Johan Stander, manager of the estate where Pistorius lived, testified that Pistorius called at around 3:18 am saying “Please, please come to my house. I shot Reeva, I thought she was an intruder. Please, please come quick.” He went with his daughter and found Pistorius coming down the stairs with Steenkamp in his arms. “He was broken, he was screaming, he was crying, he was praying, I saw the truth that morning”, he said. 

On May 12th, forensic psychiatrist Dr Merryl Vorster testified that Pistorius has a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and is a “distrusting and guarded” person hyper-vigilant about security, and also that in a fight or flight situation he is more likely to stand up to threatening situations than to flee, due to his disability. Woah, woah, woah, I have GAD, I have had it pretty much my whole life and let me tell you…. if shit gets threating, I’m running. I’m out the door as soon as I feel a situation escalating, just call me the flash. On May 13, 2014 the defense closed out testimony and rested their case. The prosecution had put in an application to have Pistorius’s mental state reevaluated by a Psychiatrist of their choosing.  On May 14 Judge Masipa granted the prosecution’s application for Pistorius to be referred for mental evaluation. The evaluation found that Pistorius was not mentally incapacitated to the extent where he could not tell right from wrong. I know that’s right; I clearly know right from wrong. Boy put me on the stand, I will tell them all about GAD. 

On May 12th, forensic psychiatrist Dr Merryl Vorster testified that Pistorius has a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and is a “distrusting and guarded” person hyper-vigilant about security, and also that in a fight or flight situation he is more likely to stand up to threatening situations than to flee, due to his disability. Woah, woah, woah, I have GAD, I have had it pretty much my whole life and let me tell you…. if shit gets threating, I’m running. I’m out the door as soon as I feel a situation escalating, just call me the flash. On May 13, 2014 the defense closed out testimony. The prosecution had put in an application to have Pistorius’s mental state reevaluated by a Psychiatrist of their choosing.  On May 14 Judge Masipa granted the prosecution’s application for Pistorius to be referred for mental evaluation. The evaluation found that Pistorius was not mentally incapacitated to the extent where he could not tell right from wrong. I know that’s right; I clearly know right from wrong. Boy put me on the stand, I will tell them all about GAD. On July 8th the defense rested its case. Judge Masipa adjourned the trial until September 11, 2014 for the delivery of the verdict. 

On September 11th Judge Masipa dismissed much of the state’s circumstantial evidence, while also describing Pistorius as a “very poor witness”. She further stated that the prosecution had fail to prove that Oscar Pistorius committed premediated murder. However, Judge Masipa said culpable homicide (defined as “the unlawful negligent killing of a human being”) was a competent verdict. She backed her claim by stating that any reasonable person would have; “foreseen the possibility that if he fired four shots whoever was behind the toilet door might be struck and die as a result”. She also said Pistorius “failed to take any steps to avoid the death, acted too hastily and used excessive force and his actions were clearly negligent”. On September 12, 2014 Judge Masipa found Pistorius not guilty of murder but guilty of the culpable homicide of Steenkamp and guilty of reckless endangerment with a firearm at a restaurant in a separate incident. He was found not guilty of the charges relating to discharging a firearm through the sunroof of a car and illegal possession of ammunition. She set the date for sentencing hearing to begin on October 13, 2014. I for one did not agree with the verdict I remember watching the news and thinking this man killed this woman in cold blood and should have been found guilty of first-degree murder. 

Wait till you hear the sentencing phase, that shit pissed me off even more. On October 21, 2014 Oscar Pistorius was sentenced to a maximum of 5 years in prison for culpable homicide. FIVE YEARS! COUNT THEM, ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE! THAT’S IT! After he served a minimum of one-sixth of the 5-year sentence, Pistorius would become eligible for house arrest. On October 15, 2015 the parole board confirmed that Oscar Pistorius would be released to house arrest on October 20, 2015. South Africa’s supreme court was not done with Pistorius just yet and appealed his slap on the wrist sentence. On November 3, 2015 the prosecution brough their appeals case to a courtroom. They argued that who was behind the toilet door was irrelevant; while the defense countered that Pistorius genuinely believed his life was in danger when he opened fire. The court overturned the verdict of the trial court on 3 December 2015, upgrading the conviction to murder, stating that Pistorius was not justified in claiming that he thought his own life was in danger.  

On December 8, 2015 it was announced that Pistorius would continue to remain free on bail of 10,000 rand ($686.00) since Judge Aubrey Ledwaba did not consider him to be a flight risk, though remaining under house arrest. He was to be allowed to leave home between 7 am and noon each day. Also, he was serving his house arrest in his Uncle’s MANSION. What a tough break. On January 11 2016, Pistorius applied to leave the appeal up to South Africa’s constitutional court instead of the Supreme Court. On March 3, 2016 the Constitutional Court denied the application. In December 2015, the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the culpable homicide verdict and found Pistorius guilty of murder, believing Pistorius should have known that firing his gun would have killed whoever was behind the door, regardless of who he thought it was. WHY WAS THIS NOT THE VERDICT THE FIRST TIME AROUND, LIKE WHAT THE SHIT PEOPLE!? On July 6, 2016 Judge Thokozile Masipa sentenced Oscar Pistorius to six years in prison for murder, although the prosecution has called for 15 years, the minimum prison sentence in South Africa for murder. What is with this chick is low balling these sentences!? In November 2017, the South African Supreme Court of Appeal added 9 years to the sentence, for a total of 15 years, following a government appeal. Pistorius will be eligible for parole in 2023. His defense team are currently appealing this new ruling. 

15 years is a small price to pay for ending the life of such a beautiful and vibrant 29-year-old. I believe there are few things that should never happen in this world and of them are parents burying their own children. Losing a parent hurts and is never easy but that is the natural cycle of life, as a child you know one day you will eventually have to deal with the loss of your parents, but I have been told that the pain of losing a child is the most devastating, crippling, and heart wrenching kind of pain a person can go through. I have heard that it doesn’t matter how much time passes, there is always a gaping hole in the chest of a parent who has lost their child, a hole where their heart once was. I feel for Reeva Steenkamp’s parents, I feel for any parent who has lost a child one way or another. But I don’t feel for Oscar Pistorius, no matter what he may have through during his life. He might have set Olympic records and crushed boundry lines between “disabled” and “non-disabled” people but at the end of the day he couldn’t out run the law or the consequences of his actions.

Sources:

“Oscar Pistorius Fast Facts” – CNN

“Oscar Pistorius” – New York Times

Pistorius with victim Steenkamp
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1 Comment

  1. Man I remember this like it was yesterday. Yup, I couldn’t believe the first verdict either. He deserves more years in jail for killing this beautiful girl.
    Another great article.

    Liked by 2 people

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