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Once an inspiration to those who suffer disabilities, Olympic competitor Oscar Pistorius is now on trial for the Valentine’s Day murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. Pistorius had his legs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old, but pursued athletics throughout his life. He made sports news headlines during the 2012 Olympic season, when he participated in the able-bodied Olympics as a sprinter for South Africa’s team. Unfortunately, he is making headlines in 2013 for the shooting death of Steenkamp, in which he is the primary suspect.
Pistorius was born in 1986 in Johannesburg, and due to a congenital birth defect that left him without fibulas, his legs were amputated when he was still an infant. Despite his medical issues, Pistorius took an active interest in sports as a youth, and played rugby and water polo as a teenager. After a knee injury, he turned his focus towards sprinting, something that he accomplishes through the use of custom, blade-like prosthetic devices. Using these prosthetics, Pistorius bested many of the world’s best runners in competitions, and competed regularly in Paralympic events throughout the 2000’s.
During the run up to the 2012 Olympic Games, Pistorius competed for a spot on South Africa’s Olympic team. Though many who raced against him considered his prosthetics to give him an unfair advantage, the Olympic Commission eventually ruled that they did not, and he was allowed to compete. Pistorius competed in the 400 meter relay, but the South African team did not win a medal. He was the first disabled athlete to participate in the able-bodied events. Pistorius also ran in the 2012 Paralympics, where he set a world record time for the 100 m relay. At both events, Pistorius was chosen to carry the flag for the South African team.
As the accolades for Pistorius’ summer achievements died down, the athlete was once again thrust back into the limelight after his girlfriend was found dead in their shared apartment on February 14, 2013. Pistorius has often admitted his fondness for firearms, and Reeva Steenkamp was found with three bullet wounds. Pistorius has admitted that he was the one who fired upon her through a bathroom door.
Pistorius was arrested, and the investigation showed that the bullets that killed Steenkamp came from a 9mm handgun that Pistorius kept beneath his bed. Pistorius gave testimony at a bail hearing this week. He has been charged with one count of premeditated murder. During his emotional testimony, Pistorius claimed that he thought a burglar had entered his home and had locked himself in his bathroom. Pistorius said that he felt vulnerable because he was not wearing his prosthetics, and quickly reached for his gun. He explained that he assumed that Steenkamp was in their shared bed when he fired upon what he thought was the intruder, only to later discover that it was indeed his girlfriend. Pistorius fired four shots, three of which hit Steenkamp.
Prosecutors are saying that the murder was premeditated because Pistorius took the time to put on his prosthetics and walk seven meters to the bathroom before he fired through the locked door. He then smashed in the door with a cricket bat, where he removed Steenkamp’s bloodied body and attempted to get her medical attention.
Premeditated murder is South Africa’s most serious crime, and, if convicted, Pistorius faces a life sentence. The Magistrate ruled that he will be held without bail until his trial begins.