Facts about Oscar Pistorius
Oscar Pistorius Biography
Oscar Pistorius is the double-amputee sprinter from South Africa who shot and killed his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day of 2013. He was tried for murder and acquitted, convicted instead of a lesser charge of culpable homicide, but in 2015 a South African appeals court overturned the initial ruling and found him guilty of murder.
Oscar Pistorious was already an international star of track and field, known for his successful fight to run in able-bodied events, including the 2012 Olympic Games. Oscar Pistorius was born without a fibula in either leg — the fibula being the smaller of the two bones that run from the knee to the ankle. Both legs were amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old, but he grew up in a “sports-mad family” and played water polo, tennis and rugby. He took up running at age 16 while rehabbing a rugby injury, and the next year won a gold medal in the 200 meters at the World Paralympic Games in Athens.
Pistorius runs on springy carbon-fiber blades called Flex-Foot Cheetahs which attach to the stumps of his legs below the knees; they earned him the nickname of the Blade Runner. By 2007 he was competing in both able-bodied and paralympic events. He swept the 100m, 200m and 400m races at the Beijing Parlympics in 2008, but that same year the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ruled that his blades were a competitive advantage and banned him from competing with able-bodied runners in standard IAAF events. After a formal hearing, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Pistorius did not have an advantage and could legally compete in IAAF races with the prosthetics.
Oscar Pistorius’s fight to overcome his disability made him a hero to many and he picked up sponsorships from Nike, Oakley Sunglasses, and other high-profile firms. (The New York Times said in a 2012 profile that Pistorius was earning “well over $1 million a year.”) In 2012 he ran in the London Olympics as part of the South African 4×400 meter team. The team did not medal, but Pistorius did win two golds (in the 400 meters and the 4×100 meter relay) at the 2012 Paralympic Games which followed.
However, things took a shocking turn a few months later: on February 14, 2013, Oscar Pistorius was arrested and charged with murder after shooting and killing his girlfriend, the model Reeva Steenkamp, inside of Pistorius’s home in Pretoria. In bail hearings over the following week, a magistrate ruled that the charge should be upgraded to premeditated murder, although he said the charge could be downgraded later. Pistorius was released on February 22, and commanded to return for trial on June 4, 2013. A Pretoria court indicted him on murder and weapons charges on August 19, 2013 (Steenkamp’s birthday, as it happened). After a lengthy trial and deliberations, Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide, the South African equivalent of manslaughter, on September 12, 2014. Then, on October 21, 2014, a judge sentenced him to five years in prison.
Pistorius served about a year in prison and then was released to house arrest. But in December of 2015 came another twist: the appeals court overturned the 2013 ruling and said Pistorius was, indeed, guilty of the higher charge of murder, requiring a minimum sentence of at least 15 years. The appeals court ordered that Pistorius be resentenced by the original judge, Thokozile Matilda Masina. Instead of 15 years, however, she sentenced Pistorius to six years in prison in July of 2016.
There was one more twist to come: On November 24, 2017, South Africa’s supreme court of appeal (SCA) boosted Pistorius’s sentence from six years in prison to 13 years and five months in prison. The court ruled that Pistorius should have been sentenced to the country’s normal minimum of 15 years for murder, then gave him credit for time served in prison to date to reach the final number. After a final unsuccessful appeal in 2018, Pistorius went to jail with a parole date of no earlier than 2023.
Oscar Pistorius has a Bible verse, 1 Corinthians 9:26-27, tattooed on his left shoulder. The tattoo begins, “I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. I execute each strike with intent. I beat my body and make it my slave…” He also has the date of his mother’s death tattooed on his arm… The Flex-Foot Cheetahs used by Pistorius were manufactured by the Icelandic company Össur… In the Paralympics he competed in classes T43 (double below-the-knee amputees) and T44 (single below-the-knee amputees)… Oscar Pistorius’s nickname, the Blade Runner, is a nod to the 1982 sci-fi movie of the same name.
Something in Common with Oscar Pistorius
- Sagittarius Murderers (3)
- Runners born in South Africa (2)
- Athletes born in South Africa (3)
- Sagittarius Athletes (19)
3 Good Links
- Ongoing coverage of the tragedy from The Guardian
- 2012 NY Times profile, emphasis on his personal life
- 2012 report from The Guardian on Pistorius making the South African Olympic team