Tag Archives: amputee

Oscar Pistorius shooting: How the South African icon was driven by anger

Icon who fell to earth: Poster boy Pistorius had scars that ran so deep

During an interview with Oscar Pistorius in Pretoria last year, our conversation turned to how the South African’s prosthetic legs affected the way he runs. Pistorius had been training on the grass track at the city’s university and it was striking that he moved in an ungainly, fidgety way.

He shifted his weight from side to side when he was not running. Those 2,600 carbon-fibre blades defined him as one of the most iconic athletes on the planet, but they looked cumbersome; painful even.

Questions turned to how being a double amputee impacted on his training regime. How was he able to compete with rivals who were born with fibulae, the bones that connect your knees to your ankles

Historic: Oscar Pistorius in Olympic action in London last year

Historic: Oscar Pistorius in Olympic action in London last year

Pistorius’s oft-repeated argument for his inclusion in able-bodied athletics was ‘there are tens of thousands of people using the same prosthetics I use and there’s no-one running the same times’, but what made Pistorius different from the rest

When asked what it would mean to become the first double amputee to run at the Olympic Games, a remarkable feat he duly achieved some five months later, it was clear he was irritated. Suddenly, the mild exterior of one of sport’s most famous faces clouded over. Pistorius became fractious and prickly.

‘It’s pretty similar to any other athlete,’ said Pistorius. ‘I think it’s a reward for any athlete, after years of training, to progress to a competition like that.’

In the spotlight: Pistorius leaves the Boschkop police station, east of Pretoria

In the spotlight: Pistorius leaves the Boschkop police station, east of Pretoria

In the spotlight: Pistorius leaves the Boschkop police station, east of Pretoria

He was not being modest, just evasive. Pistorius, after all, was not just ‘any athlete’. He redefined what it is to run fast. He challenged the traditional perception of what a sprinter looks like.

Inspirational is a word too often attached to athletes, but it is a description that accurately reflects what Pistorius has achieved on a 400metre track.

His parents took the decision to have his legs amputated below the knees when he was just 11 months old, yet he became a symbol of battling against adversity, recognised across the globe.

No fear: Pistorius poses for Sportsmail's Andy Hooper last year

No fear: Pistorius poses for Sportsmail's Andy Hooper last year

The speed of Pistorius’s rise to prominence has only been beaten by the swiftness with which he has fallen since reports came in of the shooting in the early hours of Thursday morning.

In 2007, the IAAF, athletics’ governing body, said Pistorius’s prosthesic limbs gave him an unfair advantage but he fought the ruling and saw it overturned the following year.

He did not just challenge legislation, however, he transcended athletics and certainly Para-athletics, testing ideas and dividing opinion about what is right and wrong and acceptable in competitive sport.

Happier times: Oscar Pistorius had been with girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp for a couple of months

Happier times: Oscar Pistorius had been with girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp for a couple of months

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE BLADE RUNNER

Born November 1986 without the fibula, the bone that connects the knee to the ankle, in each leg. Has both legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday.

January 2004 Takes up athletics, initially to recover from a rugby injury.

June 2004 Receives his first pair of Ossur Flex-Foot Cheetah legs, Pistorius’ blades.

August 2004 Wins gold and bronze in the T44 200m and 100m at the Paralympics in Athens.

July 2007 Competes for the first time internationally against able-bodied athletes in Rome.

November 2007 Undergoes clinical tests and is then banned from IAAF competition. The organisation say Pistorius’ blades give him an unfair advantage.

May 2008 The Court of Arbitration for Sport over-rules the IAAF decision.

September 2008 Misses qualification for the Olympics by 0.7secs, but wins three golds at the Paralympics in Beijing.

January 2011 Wins three IPC world titles but loses for the first time in seven years over 100m.

August 2011 Qualifies for the IAAF World Championships in Daegu. Wins silver in the 4x400m relay, but misses out on a place in South Africa’s team for the final.

August 2012 Becomes the first double amputee to run at the Olympic Games, reaching the semi-finals of the 400m and the final of the 4x400m. Carries the South African flag at the Paralympic Opening Ceremony and then wins a silver and two gold medals in the 200m, 400m and 4x100m relay.

February 2013 Charged with murder after his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, is shot dead.

SOUTH AFRICAN GOLD MINE

Pistorius’ exploits made him the most famous Paralympic athlete on the planet and one of the sports’ top earners.

Estimated net worth: 3.2million

Estimated sponsorship deals: 3m (inc Nike and BT)

He is the highest-paid Paralympian in the world and last year was rated the eighth highest-paid Olympic athlete.

Yet, despite the countless awards and myriad appearances on chat shows and glossy magazines around the world in his crusade to be seen as a role model, the Blade Runner’s brand continued to be underpinned by his achievements on the track.

His attempt to break the 45-second barrier was set to continue this season before yesterday’s events. Pistorius had spent the last month training with British 400m runner Martyn Rooney in South Africa and was scheduled to contest two events in Australia in March.

He seemed calmer and more at ease than in the frenzied run-up to London 2012 but the burning desire to achieve, the drive that saw him lose 17kg in weight and change his body shape dramatically, remained.

Pistorius has never been afraid to set himself targets. He won three Paralympic gold medals in Beijing after failing to qualify for the Olympics and then told the world he would not miss out again in London. That he achieved that dream by reaching the semi-finals of the 400m is a testament to his self-belief and determination.

Seeing Pistorius swap race numbers with Kirani James, who eventually won 400m gold, after their semi-final provided one of the most touching moments of the Games, yet the South African’s participation was always going to be more significant than his performance.

It was not until the Paralympics that we saw the true sporting icon Pistorius had become. He was the poster boy of the Games; the good-looking South African plastered over adverts for Nike, Thierry Mugler, Oakley and BT in deals worth an estimated 3m a year, a figure that ranks him among athletics’ top earners.

When I visited him last February there was a copy of GQ magazine on the coffee table, heralding Pistorius as South Africa’s best-dressed man. The Blade Runner was the first and, possibly, only Paralympian whom many would have been able to name before the Games began. But then, suddenly, the halo slipped.

Pistorius lost his T44 200m crown to Alan Oliveira and claimed that the Brazilian’s blades were too long. His comments were not only ironic, given his continued insistence that blades did not give him an unfair advantage, but unsportsmanlike and deeply disrespectful. Yet, in the eyes of many, his outburst was the moment the Paralympics became relevant. This was elite sport we could relate to, argue over and dissect. And Pistorius was at the heart of it.

He comfortably retained his 400m crown and won another gold medal in the 4 x 100m relay, but he lost his 100m title in the stand-out race of the Paralympics. It was not Oscar’s name but that of 19-year-old Briton, Jonnie Peacock that was chanted by the sell-out crowd in the Olympic Stadium that evening.

Would there, though, have been a Jonnie without Oscar, the athlete Peacock has described as his ‘hero’ It was Pistorflius’s extraordinary sporting story that seemed to make it possible for a teenager from Cambridge who contracted meningitis when he was five years old.

And now the remarkable narrative of a quite extraordinary athlete has taken the most unimaginable twist.

A BLOODY HISTORY OF TALENT AND TRAGEDY…

Rugby star killed his daughter
Former Springbok rugby player accidentally shot dead his 19-year-old daughter when he mistook her for a car thief in 2004. Her Volkswagen Golf was being driven out of the driveway of their family home at 5am and he shot the driver from his bedroom window, thinking his daughter Marle was in bed.

Troubled end for Belcher
In December 2012, Jovan Belcher, a 25-year-old line-backer for the Kansas City Chiefs, shot his girlfriend dead before driving to the training ground and killing himself in front of his coach. The couple had a three-month-old child.

Life in prison for pitcher Ogawa
Japanese baseball pitcher Hiroshi Ogawa was convicted in September 2005 of killing a 67-year-old woman and was sentenced to life in prison. Deeply in debt, Ogawa stole $20,000 from the chairman of an industrial plant and pushed the housekeeper down the stairs before drowning her in a lake.

Did OJ get away with murder
In June 1994, NFL Hall of Famer OJ Simpson (below) was arrested for the murders of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman but was eventually acquitted. In 2008 he was convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping and is currently serving 33 years.

Rozier’s seven murders
Former American footballer Robert Rozier played for St Louis Cardinals before joining black supremacist cult ‘The Brotherhood’. He admitted to seven murders and was jailed for 22 years in October 1986 after agreeing to testify against other members of the organisation.

'Suicide bid’ went wrong
Jamaican fast bowler Leslie Hylton, who played in six Tests for the West Indies against England, taking 16 wickets, was hanged in May 1955 for the murder of his wife and remains the only cricketer to have ever been executed. Hylton claimed he had been trying to shoot himself but missed.

Doctor Oscar! Golden "Bladerunner" Pistorious returns to Britain Strathclyde

Doctor Oscar! Golden 'Bladerunner' returns to Britain to collect yet more honors

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UPDATED:

17:13 GMT, 12 November 2012

Oscar Pistorius, one of the great stars of London 2012, has been made an honorary doctor by Strathclyde University.

The
South African double amputee, who dazzled in the olympic Stadium has
been recognised for his outstanding sporting success at the ceremony in
Glasgow.

The first
double leg amputee to compete at both the Olympic and Paralympic Games –
nicknamed 'Bladerunner' – said the award of his honorary doctorate
capped off an amazing year.

Oscar Pistorious receives his honorary doctorate from Strathclyde University

Oscar Pistorious receives his honorary doctorate from Strathclyde University

'Today is a very proud day for me,” he said.

'The people of Scotland are always so warm and welcoming towards me, and I think of it as my second home here.

'Thank you to everyone at the university for their support, this truly does cap what has been an amazing year for me.'

Doctor Oscar: He faces the cameras after receiving his scroll

Doctor Oscar: He faces the cameras after receiving his scroll

Scroll on, Oscar: He collects his doctorate for outstanding sporting success

Scroll on, Oscar: He collects his doctorate for outstanding sporting success

Pleased as punch: Oscar takes hold of a prosthetic hand during a visit to Strathclyde University

Pleased as punch: Oscar takes hold of a prosthetic hand during a visit to Strathclyde University

Pistorius added: 'There are a lot of youngsters here (at the centre) that I can identify with.

'When
I was young I used to go to a prosthetics centre and I spent a lot of
time there – when kids are growing, their braces have to change as they
put on muscle and weight.

'Some of these kids spend a lot of time here and they form great relationships with their therapists, which is quite special.

'I think when you see some of the kids here, they've really come to find this as a second home.'

Pistorius later joined hundreds of engineering graduates for a ceremony at the university's Barony Hall.

Oscar meeting with patients during a visit to the National Centre for Prosthetics and Orthotics

Oscar meeting with patients during a visit to the National Centre for Prosthetics and Orthotics

Professor Sir Jim McDonald,
Principal of the University, said: 'We are delighted to welcome Oscar
back to the University. His sporting success, combined with his
determination to help people affected by disability, has made him an
excellent role model, not only for our graduating students here at
Strathclyde, but for millions of people across the globe.

'As
a leading technological University, we are committed to ‘useful
learning’ – teaching and research that has an impact on society.

'It
is fitting that Oscar’s visit has included a visit to our Department
for Biomedical Bioengineering – an excellent example of what can be
achieved by bringing together innovative technologies, determined people
and excellent teaching to improve lives.'

Adam Donnachie, 11, from Hamilton, South Lanarkshire, who was born with both his lower legs missing, said talking to Pistorius was the 'best thing that has ever happened' to him.

Adam said: “It was the time of my life getting to meet him, a dream come true. He’s my hero because he just never gives up.

'Meeting him was the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

'I swim with Scotland just now, we train four times a week, and I’d like to follow in Oscar’s footsteps by going to the Paralympics.

'It’s one of my goals to make it to Rio in 2016.'

Professor
Bernie Conway, Head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, said:
'There can be no doubt that Oscar Pistorius is a remarkable person and
athlete, where the will to prepare to win is strong but is rooted in a
positive life philosophy that centres on trust, equality and respect for
others.

'A winner whose
winning habit has been powered by dedication, commitment and an
unshakable determination to live a life without limitations or barriers,
Oscar’s road to success has been both inspirational and immensely
challenging.

'We see our
own mission to provide training and innovation that can better people’s
lives and with this honorary award to Oscar, we wish to recognise not
only his remarkable past achievements, but his future commitment and
drive to help people and children affected by disability.'

Gold star: Oscar wins the men's 400-meter T44 final in London.

Gold star: Oscar wins the men's 400-meter T44 final in London.

Paralympians can shine brightly on any stage – Des Kelly

These real diamonds can shine brightly on any stage

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UPDATED:

23:45 GMT, 7 September 2012

If you watched the Paralympics without your jaw dropping open in wonderment, or an awestruck tear collecting in the corner of an eye, then I suggest you may have had your soul amputated.

What a triumph the 2012 Paralympic Games have been; what a momentous event for the country. Britain can feel thoroughly proud of itself for staging yet another unforgettable spectacle.
But, from this point on, everything changes. It has to.

Oscar Pistorius broke down barriers as the first amputee to compete at the Olympics alongside able-bodied competitors. Now the sport has the chance to go a giant carbon-fibre stride further.

Star quality: Hannah Cockroft celebrates winning her 200 metres race on a thrilling Thursday night of Paralympic action

Star quality: Hannah Cockroft celebrates winning her 200 metres race on a thrilling Thursday night of Paralympic action

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If I were a Diamond League promoter writing out cheques for the likes of Usain Bolt to stroll to 200m victories at meetings across Europe, I’d be considering a punt on staging more Paralympic races as part of the programme. They do happen on occasion at the moment, more as a novelty than a permanent fixture. But just look at the value athletes like Hannah Cockroft, David Weir and Jonnie Peacock would bring to any stadium.

Their historic treble success on Thursday night wasn’t so much an echo of London 2012’s ‘Super Saturday’ as a full-volume reprise of that truly golden evening.

Don't tell me a crowd wouldn't want to
watch Weir in any stadium. He had 80,000 people screaming him home on
Thursday night in an 800m wheelchair event that had all the tactical
twists of a two-lap foot race, plus a Formula One-style crash on the
second corner and some brutal Ben Hur wheel-to-wheel brinkmanship. It
was epic stuff.

While Bolt and Yohan Blake avoid one another in Diamond League sprints so they can both collect a winner’s bounty, I’d be just as happy to pay to see Peacock, the fastest Paralympian in history, take on all comers in a time that is just a few tenths of a second off his more celebrated contemporaries, despite the inconvenient absence of one leg.

Certainly, the tension before the T44
100m final between Peacock, Pistorius and Co was reminiscent of the
night Bolt faced Blake on the same track. With a nailbiting false start
and Peacock bringing the crowd to a complete hush beforehand, it was
laden with drama. The six million who tuned in to watchChannel 4 agree. Promoters take note. The changes are already beginning to happen and the boundaries continue to blur.

The Rugby World Cup 2015 organisers this week recruited Debbie Jevans, the London Olympics director of sport, and talks are already underway to try to incorporate Paralympic rugby, or ‘Murderball’ as it is commonly known, into the programme.

This is not a sop to political correctness or some box-ticking exercise in political correctness. The public is demanding it.

Unforgettable: ParalympicsGB served up a memorable night of action - including Peacock's 100m victory

Unforgettable: ParalympicsGB served up a memorable night of action – including Peacock's 100m victory

Unforgettable: ParalympicsGB served up a memorable night of action - including Peacock's 100m victory

Unforgettable: ParalympicsGB served up a memorable night of action – including Peacock's 100m victory

I admit I found some of the talk before the Paralympics infuriating. There were accusations it was just a distant relation of the elite event, a shadow circus living on the reflected glory of the main Games.
We were told there were no genuine stars beyond Pistorius. Some wondered out loud whether it would be a glorified charity event or an expensive school sports day.

There were sneers people were turning up only because they missed out on the ‘real’ ticket ballot, and that the medals would be devalued because of the lack of competition in certain events.

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But the Paralympics actually showed us an astonishing array of fierce competitors being the best they could be in their class. Every sport always has divisions and groupings, either by sex, age, weight, engine size or equipment. You name it and there is a classification of some sort in play.

The fact that the Paralympics have to take into account myriad differences of physical and mental capability does not diminish the fact that the competitors are still number one at what they do.
Yes, some of the labels are confusing and the system could be simpler but, in time, the T44 amputees’ category might be as familiar a phrase as the Under 21s or light-middleweights.

As for the supposed lack of ‘stars’ on show, Ellie Simmonds, Sarah Storey, Cockroft, Weir and Peacock are right up there in the firmament of stellar sporting names in this country.

I’d certainly recognise them ahead of some of our rowers, cyclists and track and field medal winners from the ‘main Games’ — not because they are special cases to be patronised and indulged, but because they are outstanding athletes finally receiving some overdue profile. If you’ve seen any of the blind long jump or the wheelchair rugby, you won’t have any doubts about the courage and competitiveness on view.

Flying the flag: The Paralympians have provided as much entertainment as their Olympic counterparts

Flying the flag: The Paralympians have provided as much entertainment as their Olympic counterparts

Flying the flag: The Paralympians have provided as much entertainment as their Olympic counterparts

If you’ve seen the unique skills of the quad wheelchair tennis players serving with their feet, or the swimmers that race with no arms, there can be no doubting the prowess or the athleticism required.
I’ve tried blind football with the GB Team and banged the drum for them ever since. These boys are part Lionel Messi, part human sonar navigation system.

Plenty more to talk about…

Tune into my Press Pass show on talkSPORT on Sunday at 6pm where we will dissect the coverage of England’s World Cup qualifier and the Paralympics.

I’ll also be at the Team GB parade as a guest of Hawksbee and Jacobs live from Trafalgar Square on Monday afternoon.

I've also trained with the British
wheelchair basketball team in Spain. Beforehand, I asked the players not
to be condescending and 'take it easy' on me. I reminded them of how
infuriating they find it when strangers flash a sympathetic look their
way because they sit in a wheelchair and pointed out I didn't want the
same in reverse.

They duly responded. Throughout a metal-and-bone-crunching afternoon they beat seven types of excrement out of me, forever earning my respect in the process.

So be in no doubt this is a level of sport deserving of a stage. It is just as full of the blood of competition, burning ambition, dedication and dexterity as the main 2012 Games and it is pathetic to suggest otherwise.

There were even concerns voiced that this Paralympics was somehow a waste of money. Britain’s 328 Paralympians were given nearly 50m over four years from Lottery cash and Government funding. It sounds a lot, but to put it into a different context, that’s about the same as Wayne Rooney will earn in four years. For that, London has put on an event that could change attitudes and behaviour forever.

Rough and tumble: There's no love lost on the basketball court

Rough and tumble: There's no love lost on the basketball court

Tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of
thousands of youngsters will grow up with an indelible memory of the
night they witnessed sportsmen and women either in wheelchairs, or
blind, or with one arm, or no legs doing truly extraordinary things in
the pursuit of Olympic glory.

Hopefully, they will grow up learning to look beyond the wheelchair or the white stick. Hopefully, they will see the person not the disability. Hopefully, they will remember when they started to question the accuracy of the word ‘disabled’.

That would be a fine way to mark London's 2012 Paralympics and ensure Britain's greatest-ever sporting summer lives on forever.

Gerrard just cannot win…

It is the ultimate loaded question for England managers and captains. At some point, each and every one of them is led towards the trap.

There’s nothing complicated about the query. On a quiet news day someone collects the microphone at a press conference and asks: ‘Can England win the World Cup’

As loaded questions go, it’s right up there alongside: ‘Have you stopped beating your wife’
Every answer, be it ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is a headline. Any doubt or hesitation causes controversy.

No win situation: Gerrard was asked if England can win the World Cup in Brazil

No win situation: Gerrard was asked if England can win the World Cup in Brazil

Since Steven Gerrard is the player with the armband these days the football grenade was duly tossed in his direction when Roy Hodgson’s side were preparing for last night’s qualifier in Moldova.

His dilemma was this. If Gerrard said England had ‘no chance’ of winning the World Cup, he would be pilloried for being defeatist and failing to motivate the squad.

If he said ‘England can — or even will — win the World Cup’, he would be accused of parading the arrogance that has long been the nation’s downfall.

So Gerrard opted for the more measured approach. He trod a fine line between realism and hope and said: ‘We have to have faith — miracles do happen.’

And the reaction He was pilloried for being both defeatist and arrogant.

Greed and loathing

Cristiano Ronaldo is 'unhappy' with his life at Real Madrid. It seems adulation, 250,000 a week, a team built around him and a sumptuous lifestyle are apparently not enough.

Ashley Cole is unhappy too. He is in contract negotiations with Chelsea and the question appears to be whether he will be paid 5million for one year or 10m for two.

Lewis Hamilton is holding out for more cash at McLaren as his 75m five-year contract comes to an end this year.

On and on it goes. Do these people have any idea how preposterous they sound in the current economic climate Does anyone believe they have an inkling of how they are perceived by the public

Hand to mouth: Ronaldo is trying to get by on 250,000-a-week

Hand to mouth: Ronaldo is trying to get by on 250,000-a-week

So the story goes

The story doing the rounds is Manchester United’s purported 38m bid for Brazilian superstar Neymar is the esult of a misunderstanding.

Apparently, someone got hold of the wrong end of the stick when Sir Alex Ferguson declared there would be ‘nay more signing for United’.

Jonnie Peacock beats Oscar Pistorius in 100m – London 2012 Paralympics

Go Jonnie, go! Brit star Peacock wins 100m in record time as Pistorius misses medals

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UPDATED:

21:09 GMT, 6 September 2012

British teenager Jonnie Peacock sealed his status as the fastest amputee in the world by upstaging Oscar Pistorius in the biggest race of the Paralympics.

The 19-year-old from Cambridge showed no regard for reputations as he stormed away from the field to win in 10.90 seconds, a new Paralympic record.

Jonnie Peacock

All smiles: Peacock was the class act of the field after storming to victory on Thursday night

He came into the Games as the T44 world record holder but inexperienced on the big stage, but proved he can more than handle the occasion.

Only American Richard Browne could get close to the Briton, claiming silver in 11.03secs.

Over the line: The 19-year-old set a new Paralympic record with a time of 10.90 seconds

Over the line: The 19-year-old set a new Paralympic record with a time of 10.90 seconds

Pistorius, the defending champion, was never in contention, finishing fourth behind fellow South African and room-mate Arnu Fourie, but was quick to embrace Peacock at the finish.

Chants of 'Peacock, Peacock, Peacock' rang around the stadium before the start, which was delayed when Brazilian Alan Fonteles Oliveira appeared to twitch and the field were asked to stand up.

Out of the running: Pistorius (far right) was a distant fourth

Out of the running: Pistorius (far right) was a distant fourth

A faulty rather than a false start was the verdict and the added tension did not affect Peacock, who was able to race off on a lap of honour draped in the Union Flag.

Peacock's victory crowned a golden night for Great Britain, coming minutes after David Weir had continued his relentless pursuit of quadruple gold by making it three out of three with yet another masterful ride, this time to win the 800m title.

Gracious in defeat: Pistorius embraces Peacock

Gracious in defeat: Pistorius embraces Peacock

Peacock told Channel 4: 'It's absolutely surreal. For the past four days, this event being quite late on, you've got these guys going out getting gold and you just want to be part of that.

'This Games is definitely a legacy and to be part of that is amazing.

'I knew this crowd was going to be intense. Dave Weir going minutes before – I knew he'd win, and I knew the crowd would be on a high. We'd had a great day so far, Hannah opened up the evening with a gold. I knew they were going to do that.

'[But] I didn't think it was going to be that crazy, I was like, who's going to get a bigger cheer, Oscar or me

'It was just surreal. I had to tell them to be quiet after a while. 'I was really annoyed with my start yesterday. This time I actually knew I could push. About 60m I started to think, “oh c**p I'm in the lead. What's going on here”

'I was rocking a little bit. It was crazy.'

Pistorius was quick to hail Peacock's gold, telling Channel 4: 'What we've seen tonight is the start of an amazing Paralympics sprinter.

'I've just been watching it on the screen again and it was a great performance. 'I can't imagine how happy he must be to do this in front of his home crowd.

'Well done, it's a great time for him. He's still young and he's got a great future ahead of him.

'I was hoping to finish in the medals but the 100 is not my thing. My room-mate (Fourie) pipped me on the line for third.' Pistorius admitted he is now hoping for gold in his favourite event, the 400m.

'I'm desperate for that,' he said. 'I'm looking forward to the 400m.'

Flying the flag: The British star enjoys a lap of honour in front of his home crowd

Flying the flag: The British star enjoys a lap of honour in front of his home crowd

London 2012 Paralympics: Oscar Pistorius should have taken defeat in his stride – Jonathan McEvoy

You should have taken defeat in your stride, Blade Runner

By
Sportsmail Reporter

PUBLISHED:

21:41 GMT, 3 September 2012

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UPDATED:

21:41 GMT, 3 September 2012

Oscar Pistorius is capable of immense charm. He shows it to the fellow in the car park who helps him reverse out of a space as he throws him the few coins that make a difference to South Africa’s dispossessed.

It was the same welcoming personality that led him to invite me into his home on a guarded estate in Pretoria last year. Cricket and baseball bats lay behind the door, a pistol by his bed and a machine gun by a window.

It is a disconcerting scene to this British visitor but just everyday protection in his sometimes troubled homeland. The weapons juxtapose his simple friendliness. When I visited he was faultlessly welcoming, meeting me on time, finding me somewhere to stay and driving me back to the airport.

Sheepish: Pistorius (left) collects his silver medal on Monday

Sheepish: Pistorius (left) collects his silver medal on Monday

He cooked lunch at his bachelor pad, frying chicken cubes and throwing them into an avocado salad. He fished out a beer for me – how Fleet Street’s reputation goes before us – and took a water for himself.

Reputations – his, not ours – have preceded him here in London these last few dizzying, disorientating weeks. He is the poster boy of the Paralympics who was introduced to the crowd as ‘the great Oscar Pistorius’. Before that he was the pioneer who beat disability and opposition to become the first amputee to run in the Olympics.

All of the above makes it a sadness that at least a little of his lustre was rubbed away on Sunday night when he criticised the man who took what the watching world imagined would be Pistorius’s gold medal in the 200 metres.

His comments were unsporting because, on this one, Oscar has not got a prosthetic leg to stand on. Alan Oliveira’s blades fall within the rules. Furthermore, Oliveira took six more strides in the final than Pistorius. He also ran slower in winning than Pistorius had in his semi-final, 21.45sec to 20.30sec.

Alas, Pistorius will be remembered by many as a petulant prima donna, an athlete who charms only when he is winning. He has shown a fast temper before, walking out of a BBC radio interview last year when he was asked whether he was an ‘inconvenient embarrassment’ to the authorities because his battle to take part in able-bodied competitions took them into ‘uncharted ethical waters’.

Contradiction: Pistorius has fought to compete with able-bodied athletes

Contradiction: Pistorius has fought to compete with able-bodied athletes

In passing, however, let’s note that Pistorius’s comments about Oliveira, while misguided, happily cut through the sometimes sugary sermonising that has attached itself to the Paralympic narrative. They showed the Paralympics matter.

Pistorius is from a rich mining family and his earnings are estimated at around 1million a year. He is an icon of African sport and the best known Paralympian in history. His success is the story of bloody-minded triumph over adversity – the characteristics that led him to the frustrated outburst here in London.

He was born without a fibula in either leg. His parents Henk and Sheila made the agonising decision to go ahead with the double amputation when he was 11 months old. He remembers: ‘My father became an expert on amputation. He spoke to doctors all around the world.

‘So when one doctor said I should have an amputation above the knee rather than below, he refused to pay the bill for the advice. He knew that the doctor was being flippant.’ That is an excellent example of the Pistorius attitude to life. Like father, like son.

Young Oscar was a livewire. When he played in sand two children asked him why he left holes rather than footprints. He was not perturbed. His mother Sheila, the biggest influence on his life, would simply put shoes on his brother Carl’s feet and prosthetic legs on his stumps.

Pistorius wrestled, played tennis, cricket, water polo and rugby. He turned to athletics only after a crushing rugby injury.

Contradiction: Pistorius has fought to compete with able-bodied athletes

By then he was a pupil at the strict, traditional English-speaking Pretoria Boys High School and had lost his beloved mother after an allergic reaction to medication. She was 42. Her dates of birth and death are tattooed on his arm. He says a silent prayer to her before every race.

Sheila wrote a letter to her son before his amputation. It was intended for him to read when he was older. ‘The real loser is never the person who crosses the finishing line last. The real loser is the person who sits on the side.’

It was that mantra that is Pistorius’s guiding credo. So when he was told his prosthetic limbs gave him an advantage against able-bodied runners and that he was, therefore, barred from competing against them, he fought all the way.

He employed the best lawyers and scientists to prove that the athletics federation, the IAAF, were wrong to prevent his participation. Via the Court of Arbitration for Sport, he won his case five years ago.

Defending his position, he once told me: ‘It’s like you interviewing an able-bodied sprinter and asking him if his pair of shoes make him great. He spends half his life saying, “It’s not my shoes; it’s my training”.

‘I’m training s*** hard. And if my shoes are so great, why are other Paralympians not running the times I am’ When they are, as Oliveira is, the sometime charming, incredible, trail-blazing Pistorius would do well to remember his own words.

London 2012 Olympics: Oscar Pistorius on his bid for glory

I didn't think twice about defending my titles… I'm raring to go again

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UPDATED:

22:43 GMT, 28 August 2012

Last week I did something I hadn’t done for 16 months — I ran in a 100 metres race.

My time in Warsaw was 11.17sec, which wasn’t bad on a slow track with a 1.7m per second headwind. Most importantly, I’m on target for what I want to achieve.

I’ve just been doing 100m sprint training since the Olympics finished. I’ve put on 3kg of muscle in a couple of weeks by just doing short-distance sprints every day. It’s important because I’ve lost 12kg since the last Paralympics four years ago. It’s been crazy. I had forgotten what short-distance training is like.

Quick off the blocks: Oscar Pistorius is aiming to add to his medal collection

Quick off the blocks: Oscar Pistorius is aiming to add to his medal collection

It’s actually quite nice: you don’t have any cardio to do, you just get in the gym and do big weights. I’m loving it. It’s what I was used to. When I was 21 I weighed 87kg. Now I’m at 72kg. I enjoy that kind of training.

I won gold in the T44 (the race for single below knee amputees, although Pistorius is actually a double below knee amputee) in 100m, 200m and 400m events in Beijing but since then I have focused on the 400m. I competed in the Olympics in that event — it is by far my strongest. My time in the 400m is very strong.

It would be nice to defend my title in the 100m and I’ll try in the 200m as well but the 400m is the more realistic aim. I know the other guys are getting stronger and it’s nice to see the sport evolve.

Star attraction: Pistorius is one of the biggest names at the event

Star attraction: Pistorius is one of the biggest names at the event

I didn’t even think about not coming here to defend my titles. As long as I can qualify I’m still one of the strongest double amputees in the world. But the 100m isn’t my event any more. It will be nice though to run with the other guys and maybe I’ll learn a lot from them.

I’ve been back in the athletes’ village since Friday. Everything there is set up for performance. We’ve had a long season already — I’ve had 22 races since May — and a lot of the Paralympic athletes have already had a full season. So you just want to train, rest and eat. Just do your thing. It’s perfect. The village is really accessible for every athlete. Every now and again I sneak off to the mall and watch a movie too.

Streets ahead: Pistorius has been focusing on his 400m running

Streets ahead: Pistorius has been focusing on his 400m running

I’m also very excited to be carrying the South African flag at the Opening Ceremony today. It is a privilege, something I’ve never done before. I’ll load up with lots of carbo-hydrates before as it’s going to be a long evening. Carrying the flag will be OK — it will be a nice training session for my arms.

Oscar Pistorius is a BT Ambassador. BT is the official communications services partner for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. www.bt.com/london2012

Oscar Pistorius, the story – nothing is impossible

How Paralympic legend Pistorius found nothing is impossible

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UPDATED:

22:00 GMT, 25 August 2012

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 Brooks realised he had no legs. ‘He was just one of the bunch, doing everything at the same pace as everybody else,’ he said.

Pistorius, who is defending his 100m, 200m and 400m titles at the Paralympics, was born 25 years ago into a prominent family in Pretoria without fibulas, the outer of the bones that run between the knee and the ankle.

Encouraged: Oscar Pistorius with his father Henke who helped him along the way

Encouraged: Oscar Pistorius with his father Henke who helped him along the way

His parents, Sheila and Henke, 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”.’

Pistorius breaks down frontiers. He produced one of the marquee moments of London 2012 when he became the first amputee to run in the Olympics. Much of his success is attributed to the fact he was always treated as a ‘normal little boy’.

/08/25/article-2193556-14AFC903000005DC-361_468x312.jpg” width=”468″ height=”312″ alt=”History maker: Pistorius broke new ground when he competed at the Olympics” class=”blkBorder” />

History maker: Pistorius broke new ground when he competed at the Olympics

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, he would do 20km 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 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 400m, his favoured event, in a personal best of 45.07sec, a time never thought possible for an amputee.

Overcoming problems: Pistorius

Overcoming problems: Pistorius

At 13, 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.’

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 Shroeder. ‘But he carried on running over the line, I think the other kid still has nightmares.’

Tragedy struck for Pistorius when his mother Sheila died following an allergic reaction to treatment for suspected malaria when he was 15.

Pistorius threw himself into sport 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, he lit up the Athens Paralympics aged 17, winning gold in the 200m and bronze in the 100m in the T44 class, which also includes single below-the-knee amputees.

‘Within months he was an icon,’ said Shroeder. ‘My biggest challenge was keeping a teenager who was the envy of every kid on the straight and narrow.’

Pistorius now earns almost 1m a year in deals to promote everything from perfume to groceries and telecommunications, while a South African magazine recently voted him the country’s sexiest celebrity.

London 2012 Olympics: Oscar Pistorius qualifies for 400m semi-finals

Blade Runner creates Olympic history as Pistorius qualifies for 400m semi-finals

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UPDATED:

10:01 GMT, 4 August 2012

Oscar Pistorius of South Africa became the first amputee to compete on the track at an Olympics, finishing second in his 400 metres heat Saturday to advance to the next round.

Pistorius, a double-amputee who runs on carbon-fibre blades, circled the oval in 45.44 seconds – good enough for second place in his heat and a berth in the semi-finals on Sunday night.

Pistorius waged a long fight to run in the Olympics against able-bodied opponents and finally got that chance on a sunny morning in front of a sellout crowd at Olympic Stadium.

Pistorius was born without fibulas and his legs were amputated below the knee before he was a year old.

More to follow.

Flying start: Double amputee Oscar Pistorius came second in his heat of the men's 400m

Flying start: Double amputee Oscar Pistorius came second in his heat of the men's 400m

London 2012 Olympics: Oscar Pistorius fails to make "A" standard for 400m at Games

Blow for the Blade Runner: Pistorius fails to make 400m 'A' standard for Olympics

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UPDATED:

17:53 GMT, 29 June 2012

Oscar Pistorius has admitted defeat in his bid to qualify for the 400 metres at the London Olympics after missing out on the 'A' standard in the final of the African Championships in Benin on Friday.

The South African double amputee, who runs with carbon fibre prosthetic running blades, clocked 45.52 seconds to finish second, outside the 'A' standard of 45.30 secs.

Time failure: Oscar Pistorius has not made the 400m 'A' Grade time for the London Games

Time failure: Oscar Pistorius has not made the 400m 'A' Grade time for the London Games

Friday's race was the 25-year-old's last chance to achieve the standard for a third time as required by the South African selectors.

He said: 'My race today felt good and I'm pleased to have won the silver medal at the African Championships.

'I am obviously disappointed that my time was just outside of the Olympic qualification time by two tenths of a second.'

Oscar Pistorius exclusive: walking on the wild side

EXCLUSIVE: Walking on the wild side with blade runner Pistorius

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UPDATED:

23:02 GMT, 19 March 2012

The man sitting next to me on a luxurious, L-shaped cream sofa at his open-plan home in Pretoria, South Africa, is a sprinter. He is a man who has now met the qualifying ‘A’ standard to run in the 400 metres at the Olympic Games in London and will also go for four gold medals at the Paralympic Games.

But Oscar Pistorius is also a double amputee. He was born without a fibula, the bone that connects the knee to the ankle. This sprinter’s legs end just below his knees.

In the day-and-a-half Sportsmail photographer Andy Hooper and I spent with Pistorius in and around Pretoria, we tried to find out what makes this sprinter tick. What is the Blade Runner like away from the track

Walking on the wild side: Pistorius squares up to Anthony the cheetah

Walking on the wild side: Pistorius squares up to Anthony the cheetah

Pistorius now sits on a pile of logs at a game reserve near his home, gently stroking a nine-week-old white tiger called Orion. He is not the slightest bit nervous, yet shows the cub the utmost respect.

Pistorius is equally at ease with Anthony the cheetah, looking the animal in the eye as they crouch on a dirt track under the setting African sun.

They are both the fastest in their respective fields but Pistorius’s obvious discomfort with his running legs, known as cheetah blades, is startling compared to the regal, fluid way the animal glides around.

When Pistorius is not running he is constantly shifting his weight from left to right, trying desperately to avoid the abrasions that cause painful blistering and disrupt his training regime. ‘It’s an occupational hazard,’ he says, shrugging his shoulders. ‘Most sprinters get sores.’

He wanted a king cheetah of his own, but had to settle for two white tigers: a female called Vesta and a male, Valcan. He kept the cats, which cost around 30,000 each, at the game reserve and played with them every few days, until they got too big and he became too busy.

‘They were beautiful animals,’ he said. ‘They’ve got a couple of breeding programmes in South Africa for all types of big cats. It was more of a love for the animals than anything else, but I’m just not here enough to appreciate them.

‘I think everybody who grows up here has got some sort of love for animals and for nature. We grew up with a lot of animals at our house. We always had dogs, goats, guinea fowl and horses.’

It's a dog's life: Pistorius at his house in Pretoria with his dogs Enzo (right) and Silo (left)

It's a dog's life: Pistorius at his house in Pretoria with his dogs Enzo (right) and Silo (left)

Pistorius doesn’t really like riding horses, but he has had stakes in five race horses; animals he says he finds intriguing.

‘They’re just unbelievable animals,’ he says. ‘I’ve had about 20 wins between them over the last two-and-a-half years, but I’m more intrigued by the race horses.

‘They just love it. You see a race horse and it gets to the day before a race and you see how excited they get. It’s quite special.’

Pistorius has dogs, too – Enzo, a black-and-white bull terrier and Silo, a light-brown American pit bull. He explains Silo was a rescue dog, who was locked in a room only two metres by three metres until she was three-and-a-half months old. She had a broken back and is still nervous, even after Pistorius’s care and attention.

Enzo, however, is just mad. As he jumps around outside by the pool Pistorius elects to tell me: ‘The last journalist who came here, he ripped their toe nail off. There was blood everywhere.’ Somehow I don’t think he’s joking.

Pistorius drives his big black BMW through Pretoria’s leafy, well-heeled suburbs like a racing-car driver.

Beneath the over-sized sunglasses he smiles with satisfaction as he hears the engine momentarily eclipse the upbeat dance tunes when he pushes his foot to the floor. The good-looking, 25-year-old driver, a man recently voted South Africa’s best-dressed by GQ magazine, attracts admiring glances when we pause in the heavy commuter traffic.

Blade runner: Pistorius competes at the World Championships in Daegu last year

Blade runner: Pistorius competes at the World Championships in Daegu last year

This car is still quick and impressive, but it is the safe option for Pistorius, designed to protect him in the event of a crash. An adrenaline junkie by nature, he insists he has given up ‘all that stuff’ to pursue his dream of competing at the Olympics.

The walls of his home are adorned with signed boxing memorabilia and a painting of James Dean, the rebel without a cause. Pistorius’s double garage is littered with kit – skis, snowboards, boxing gloves and bicycles – but they remain unused, for now at least.

He has sold 11 motorcycles –
‘superbikes, race bikes, I had loads of different bikes’ – over the past
two years to focus on this sport he fell into almost by accident, when a
knee injury stopped him playing rugby at boarding school and he began
athletics ‘as a form of rehabilitation’.

Training hard: Pistorius works on his strength in Pretoria

Training hard: Pistorius works on his strength in Pretoria

‘We grew up on bikes,’ he says. ‘There’s a picture of me wheeling a motorbike when I was about six years old. But sometimes you just have to realise that, although you don’t want to stop the things you enjoy for anything, you have to realise that there are priorities sometimes. There’s no point, when you’re working so hard for something, in inviting the possibility you could mess it up. Things could go wrong on a bike very quickly.

‘I used to race every second or third weekend. You crash pretty often. Even if you just twist a wrist or something it can affect your start, or your technique. It’s just not worth it.’

Pistorius also crashed his power boat into a submerged pier in 2008, breaking two ribs, his jaw and an eye socket, and had to have 172 stitches. ‘The boat’s gone, too,’ he adds, smiling and looking sheepish. ‘We don’t do that stuff any more. It was quite difficult to get that out of my system. I miss that quite a bit.

‘There will be a time for that in the
future but, right now, I would be quite upset if I got injured. There
must be other ways I can unwind. It’s a small sacrifice.’

He reads, paints, and plays ‘the odd
nine holes of golf’ instead, but you feel it has been very difficult,
letting go of the pursuit of going dizzyingly, dangerously fast.

Pistorius is still chasing that buzz in a
purer way, of course, just him, the track and the clock, but it is as
if he has had to learn to respect his body; realising that it might just
not be unbreakable after all.There
is something of an irony in this, but Pistorius, unfailingly polite and
courteous as he is, is a man who does not comprehend the concept of
‘cannot’.

The book Pistorius is reading is called The Just Defiance by Peter Harris, about the African National Congress’s campaign of violence during apartheid.

Pistorius grew up in a comfortable white family. He has a black live-in caretaker, Frankie, who keeps his home spotless, and trains with a Zimbabwe 400m runner, Talkmore Nyongani. He says he finds it fascinating looking back at his nation’s history and politics and discusses both animatedly and passionately.

‘My generation weren’t affected by apartheid so it’s very difficult for us to understand sometimes,’ he says. ‘We had dinner last night for my sister Aimee’s birthday. We sat at a table with 20 people and, without even noticing, she’s got a third black friends, a third Indian and a third white.

Political enthusiast: Pistorius is a keen reader

Political enthusiast: Pistorius is a keen reader

‘I find politics fascinating; a person’s reasoning behind things. Sometimes it might be that they’ve got the wrong actions, but the reason behind it is sometimes just. Sometimes the reasoning’s so flawed that it just brings out the worst in people.

‘We see things as black and white but there’s often a lot of grey in between. Whether it be right or wrong is a different story but it’s good to appreciate other people’s views. Sometimes people feel they have to make a stand but it becomes more about egos than anything else. They try to prove a point and end up doing even more damage.’

He could be talking about his own fight here, the successful battle for the Court of Arbitration for Sport to conclude his carbon-fibre blades do not give him an advantage on the athletics track. But in this case, it is his view that is very black and white.

‘At the end of the day there are tens of thousands of people using the same prosthetics I use and there’s no-one running the same times,’ he says, with defiance.

‘You’re always going to get people who have their opinions and offer their opinions but they can’t explain things like that.’

One of 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.

Need for speed: Pistorius has always been a keen sportsman

Need for speed: Pistorius has always been a keen sportsman

‘My brother was like my hero when I was growing up,’ said 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.

Mother's pride: Pistorius speaks with the utmost respect for his late mother

Mother's pride: Pistorius speaks with the utmost respect for his late mother

‘Carl’s not very good with normal sports. He’s an adrenaline junkie. He does jet skis and white-river rafting and mountain-bike racing. He’s like an action freak.’

The boys’ mother, Sheila, was the sort of woman who would tell Carl to put his shoes on and Oscar to put his legs on and ‘that’s the last I want to hear of it’. She died on March 6, 2002 – a date Pistorius has tattooed on his arm – after being wrongly diagnosed with hepatitis. He almost whispers when he talks about his mum, such is the respect in his voice.

‘She was very special to us,’ says Pistorius. ‘She was very cool; a very hectic, free spirit. She didn’t really comply with much and had a very carefree approach to life.

‘She didn’t take anything too seriously. She wrote us hundreds of letters and taught us hundreds of things and never made decisions for us. Those are the important lessons, when you try to do things sometimes and you don’t succeed and you give up, and you never really know what the potential could have been if you had stayed dedicated to something.’

The most dramatic difference between the
Pistorius who just missed out on qualifying for the 2008 Olympics and
the athlete who has already beaten the 45.30-second ‘A’ standard for
London 2012 is his weight.

He used to look like a rugby player; now
the Pistorius you will see at the BT Paralympic World Cup in
Manchester on May 22, at the Paralympic Games in London and – if he can
match the qualifying time at an international event – at the Olympic
Games, looks more like a middle-distance runner.

Pistorius explains he has shed 17 kilograms over the past two-and-a-half years. His message is simple, brutal even. ‘If you’ve got extra weight you’ve got to justify it,’ he says. ‘If it’s not adding to the power-to-weight ratio, it has to go.

‘You sometimes find sprinters fighting themselves when they’re running. They’re using a lot of aggression that’s not getting transferred on to the track. It’s a waste of energy, really.’

Pistorius is not a big believer in wasting energy. He admits he didn’t realise this when he was younger, but it’s why the fast cars, motorbikes and white tigers have gone, allowing him to concentrate on Oscar the athlete.

As the tattoo on his left shoulder states: ‘I do not run like a man running aimlessly.’