Oscar Pistorius is a South African former sprinter who became famous for competing in both disability and non-disabled athletic events. He was born with a congenital condition that resulted in the absence of fibulae in both legs. At the age of 11 months, he had a bilateral below-the-knee amputation.
He used prosthetic legs to run and earned the nickname “Blade Runner” for his carbon-fiber blades. He faced controversy over his eligibility to compete in the Olympics, as some argued that his prostheses gave him an unfair advantage.
He achieved several world records and medals in Paralympic and Olympic events, but his career and reputation were tarnished by his involvement in the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in 2013. He was convicted of culpable homicide and later murder, and sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison.
Early Life & Leg Amputation
Oscar Pistorius was born in Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa, on November 22, 1986. He was the second of three children of Henke and Sheila Pistorius. He had an older brother, Carl, and a younger sister, Aimee. He was born with a rare condition called fibular hemimelia, which means that he lacked the fibula, the smaller and thinner of the two bones in the lower leg. He also had deformities in his feet and ankles. His parents consulted several doctors and decided to have his legs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old, to give him a better chance of mobility and independence. He received his first pair of prosthetic legs when he was 17 months old and learned to walk and run with them. He attended a mainstream school and participated in various sports, such as rugby, water polo, tennis, and wrestling.
Oscar Pistorius discovered his talent for running when he was 16 years old after he injured his knee in a rugby match and was advised to take up the track as part of his rehabilitation. He was fitted with a pair of carbon-fiber prosthetic legs, called the Cheetah Flex-Foot, which were designed for amputee athletes. He soon impressed his coach and peers with his speed and endurance and decided to pursue a career in sprinting. He competed in his first Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004, where he won a gold medal in the 200 meters and a bronze medal in the 100 meters, setting new world records in both events. He also competed in the able-bodied South African Championships in 2005, where he finished sixth in the 400 meters.
However, his participation in non-disabled events sparked a debate over whether his prosthetic legs gave him an unfair advantage over other runners. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) conducted a scientific study and concluded that his blades allowed him to use less energy and have a longer stride than normal runners. They banned him from competing in the Olympics and other IAAF-sanctioned events in 2007, citing a violation of the rule that prohibits the use of any technical device that provides an advantage. Pistorius appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which overturned the ban in 2008, after finding that the evidence was inconclusive and that the blades did not provide a net advantage.
Pistorius was then free to compete in the Olympics, but he failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Games. He continued to dominate the Paralympic events, winning three gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Games and four medals (two gold, one silver, one bronze) in the 2012 London Games. He also made history by becoming the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics, where he reached the semifinals of the 400 meters and the final of the 4×400 meters relay in 2012.
Personal Life & Tragic Events
Oscar Pistorius was a popular and charismatic figure in South Africa and around the world. He had several sponsorship deals with companies such as Nike, Oakley, and Thierry Mugler. He also supported various charitable causes, such as the International Paralympic Committee’s Agitos Foundation, which promotes sports for people with disabilities, and the Mineseeker Foundation, which helps victims of landmines. He was voted one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine in 2012.
However, his personal life was marred by tragedy and controversy. On February 14, 2013, he shot and killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a model and law graduate, at his home in Pretoria. He claimed that he mistook her for an intruder and fired four shots through the locked bathroom door, where she was hiding. He was arrested and charged with murder. His trial attracted global media attention and public scrutiny. He pleaded not guilty and testified that he acted in self-defense and out of fear. The prosecution argued that he killed her intentionally after an argument.
The judge found him guilty of culpable homicide, a lesser charge than murder and sentenced him to five years in prison in 2014. However, the prosecution appealed the verdict and the sentence, and the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the culpable homicide conviction and replaced it with murder in 2015. He was resentenced to six years in prison in 2016. The prosecution appealed again, and the Supreme Court of Appeal increased his sentence to 13 years and five months in 2017. He is currently serving his sentence at the Atteridgeville Correctional Centre in Pretoria.
Oscar Pistorius’ story is a tragic one, of a man who overcame adversity and achieved fame and glory, only to lose it all in a moment of violence and recklessness. He is a complex and controversial figure, who has inspired admiration and sympathy, as well as anger and condemnation. His legacy as an athlete and a human being remains uncertain and contested.