February 14, 2013

Pistorius lived out dream by running at Olympics

Chris Lehourites / The Associated Press

LONDON — Only six months ago, Oscar Pistorius was running circles around the track at the Olympic Stadium, a shining example of what a person can achieve in the face of adversity as he competed at the London Games despite losing both of his legs when he was a baby.

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In this Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012. photo, Oscar Pistorius wins gold in the men's 400-meter T44 final at the 2012 Paralympics, in London.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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Oscar Pistorius leaves the Boschkop police station, east of Pretoria, South Africa, on Thursday, after questioning by police.

AP

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He didn't win a medal, but the "Blade Runner" reveled in in his Olympic moment. On Tuesday, still basking in the glow, Pistorius tweeted a photo from London of himself with eventual 400-meter gold medalist Kirani James, who asked for Pistorius' bib as a souvenir after running in the same semifinal heat.

"Still on(e) of my fondest memories of the Olympics.. Kirani and I exchanging (numbers)," wrote Pistorius, who was eliminated in that semifinal race.

Two days after that tweet, Pistorius was charged with the murder of his girlfriend after model Reeva Steenkamp was shot inside his home in South Africa. The attention was very different from the sort Pistorius has become accustomed to.

Pistorius was born without fibula bones due to a congenital defect, and had his legs amputated at 11 months. But his condition never stopped him from playing sports with prosthetics, and he took to rugby in high school. It was after injuring his knee on the pitch that he first took to the track. And very quickly he became one of the best.

The carbon-fiber blades that he uses to run led to years of controversy. By the time he had already won a gold medal at the 2004 Paralympics, Pistorius was banned from competing against able-bodied peers because many argued that his blades gave him an unfair advantage.

In 2008, however, the Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared him to compete against the fastest in the world.

It was the Olympics that he wanted, but he failed to run the qualifying time for the 2008 Beijing Games. Instead, he won the 100, 200 and 400 at the Paralympics in China as he was quickly becoming a star around the world.

In his life off the track, Pistorius called himself a "speed freak." He told The Associated Press on several occasions about his love of riding powerful motorcycles, but gave up that hobby in 2009 after he injured his head in a boat accident.

"There was a lot of refocus after that. I had this motorboat accident and I was in hospital for two weeks and spent the next four weeks at home," Pistorius told the AP. "I just realized that I need to make some changes and some of them need to be with my lifestyle. I was messing around a lot with motorbikes and just playing around and taking unnecessary risks."

He has also boasted to the AP about having cage fighters as friends, and was open about his ownership of guns. He tweeted a photo of himself at a shooting range in November 2011, bragging about his score.

"Had a 96% headshot over 300m from 50shots! Bam!" he tweeted.

Two years after his boating accident, Pistorius finally got to compete on the big stage, running on South Africa's 4x400 relay team at the 2011 world championships. Although he was dropped from the final, he won a silver medal because he competed in the heats.

By the time the London Olympics came around, Pistorius made the grade, and he could barely believe that he would become the first double amputee to compete on the track at the Olympics.

"I think I woke up the next morning with cramps in my cheeks. I was smiling in my sleep," Pistorius told the AP last year in an interview at his training base in northeastern Italy.

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