Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

From Sports Hero to Murder Suspect ; Pistorius Pushed Barriers, but Death of Girlfriend Stuns South Africa

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

From Sports Hero to Murder Suspect ; Pistorius Pushed Barriers, but Death of Girlfriend Stuns South Africa

Article excerpt

South African police officials said they were investigating the Paralympic icon for murder and planned to oppose his expected application for bail at a court hearing.

She was a platinum-haired model on the cusp of the big time, about to debut on a reality television show.

He was a global sports icon who, despite having had both his legs amputated at the knee as an infant, ran so fast that in a 2011 Nike advertisement he declared, "I am the bullet in the chamber."

Reeva Steenkamp, the model, and Oscar Pistorius, the Paralympic champion and Olympic competitor, were glamorous young fixtures on the South African celebrity scene.

But early Thursday, the police arrived at Mr. Pretorius's house in a gated community in Pretoria to find Ms. Steenkamp, 30, dead from multiple gunshot wounds in a puddle of blood. Before the day was out, Mr. Pistorius, 26, who ran on carbon-fiber blades that earned him the nickname Blade Runner, had been charged with murder.

Early news reports here that Mr. Pistorious, a known gun enthusiast, had accidentally shot his girlfriend, thinking she was an intruder, gave way to grim police news conferences announcing previous law enforcement complaints about domestic incidents at his home and the current charges of murder.

The development stunned a nation that had elevated Mr. Pistorius to iconic status as a national sporting hero, an emblem of the ability to overcome acute adversity and a symbol of South Africa's ability to project achievements onto the world stage.

"He was an icon for South Africa," said Hennie Kotze, one of the coaches who worked with Mr. Pistorius as part of the 400-meter relay at the London Olympics.

"It was the way he handled his disability with such character and discipline. It is a big shock for everyone," Kotze added.

Mr. Pistorius was arrested on Thursday and taken to a Pretoria jail, where he will spend the night in anticipation of a bail hearing to be held Friday morning. The police have said that they plan to oppose bail in the case.

Even in an era that has seen idolized sports heroes fall from grace at a rapid clip, from the doping of Mark McGwire and Lance Armstrong to the philandering of Tiger Woods, Mr. Pistorius' arrest stood out for the severity of the charges, the unique hardships he had overcome and the outsize triumphs he has won, not just against other disabled athletes but against able-bodied ones as well.

Mr. Pistorius, 26, won two gold medals and a silver at the Paralympic Games in London last year. In the 2012 Olympics, he reached the 400-meter semifinal and competed in the 4x400 meter relay.

In the Paralympics last September, Mr. Pistorius won individual gold when he successfully defended his Paralympic 400 meter title. He had lost his 100- and 200-meter titles, but was part of the gold medal-winning 4x100 meter relay team. He came in second in the 200- meter race.

After that contest, Mr. Pistorius damaged his reputation among his followers by criticizing the winner, Alan Oliveira of Brazil, raising questions about the length of the winner's blades. Mr. Pistorius later apologized and praised the gold medalist in the 100 meter race, Jonnie Peacock of Britain. …

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