I met South African Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius last year before the London 2012 Olympics at an Oakley media launch.
The media loved every second of him. He was modest, a focused athlete, extremely confident of his chances at the Olympics and Paralympics and smiled shyly when a journalist asked if there was somebody in his life.
He was single and very focused on what he had to do at the Olympics.
That’s what mattered to Oscar. He was so humble, well-spoken and shy, and my admiration grew. His apparent confidence on the track is well-known.
He knew no boundaries while running and that’s what made him more likeable: that he did not feel that there was something he couldn’t do. Behind the firm poise on the track, Oscar seemed a gentle heart in person.
In London, South Africa’s hero gave us something to smile about. Here was a double amputee running with able-bodied superstars.
He was making history and he was wearing the green and gold, holding the South African flag high after his finish.
The standout feature was Oscar. Back home in South Africa, there was so much applause for Oscar’s feats.
He was setting an example for humans to do the unthinkable; despite disability, despite setbacks, despite criticism of his enhanced blades.
A few months later, Oscar is in the news for the wrong reasons. Last Thursday morning, the South African news networks plastered photographs of the sports hero with headlines that read: ‘Oscar shoots girlfriend’. It seemed far-fetched; it seemed too sick a headline to believe.
The revelations grew – Oscar was taken to the police station in Pretoria and more disclosures on Oscar’s girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp became front-pages across the world.
First, the reports were that Oscar had mistaken Reeva for an intruder and shot her. It escalated into a case that goes unanswered and seems completely riveting.
News sites have given us reports that suggest that Oscar was a “player”, had an obsession with guns and an aggressive character.
Today, on Tuesday 19 February, Oscar sat in court while the State and Defence went head to head in his bail appeal.
The State reported that the case is one of ‘premeditated murder’ whereby he got up from his bed in the early hours of Valentine’s Day, put on his prosthetic legs and shot Reeva four times through the bathroom door.
The Defence stuck to its claims that Oscar mistook Reeva for a burglar. There are so many versions we are yet to hear in the case but the consequences of Oscar’s actions will most definitely change his future.
After the proceedings, the Judge ordered Oscar to be officially charged with premeditated murder.
So far, Nike and Oakley have pulled their Oscar adverts as well as a few television networks in South Africa who picked Oscar as their poster boy.
And what a poster boy he was. It all seems a little surreal for any South African at the moment. We are given so much hope through out beloved heroes that give the world a new outlook on humankind.
After Lance Armstrong’s doping scandal, Tiger Woods’ infidelity and Oscar’s case at the moment, do we have room to look up to any sporting greats? Perhaps it’s our own fault for putting these personalities on a pedestal.
Perhaps it’s a little naïve to think that these sporting heroes will do no wrong. We can deny and stand by our heroes all we want.
We can side with the ‘they’re just human’ reasoning behind it all but one thing is for sure – no one is perfect.
While Oscar Pistorius made massive strides in the athletics world – for disabled and able-bodied athletes alike – he seems a character shaded by flaws.
I guess there’s a media persona that no hero can ever live up to.
The Oscar case will be one in the media eye – South Africa’s own OJ Simpson type case whereby heroes that are high in regard at first, fall the hardest.