The world of sport has reacted with shock and disbelief after South African athlete Oscar Pistorius, the poster boy of the Paralympic Movement, was charged yesterday with the murder of his girlfriend.
The 26-year-old, six-time Paralympic champion from Johannesburg, the first double amputee to run in the Olympics when he competed at London 2012, allegedly shot 30-year-old girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in the early hours of yesterday morning and is due to appear in court today.
Steenkamp, a model and law graduate from Port Elizabeth, was shot in the arm and head at around 4 a.m. yesterday at Pistorius’ home in Silver Lakes complex in Pretoria and died on the scene as a 9mm pistol was recovered.
Initial reports that Pistorius mistook Steenkamp for a burglar as she attempted to surprise him on Valentine’s Day were quashed by the police.
“There was no sign of forced entry or persons who weren’t supposed to be there at this stage,” said police spokeswoman Brigadier Denise Beukes. “The South African Police Service was surprised to hear allegations on the radio this morning that the deceased had been perceived to be a burglar.
“The allegations did not come from us. There are witnesses and they have also been interviewed this morning.
“We’re talking about neighbors and people that heard things that happened earlier in the evening and when the shooting took place.
“At this stage there is no other suspect involved. There were only two people on the premises: the resident and the deceased.”
Beukes also said that police were aware of previous incidents at the house where Pistorius lives as she said: “I can’t confirm that its’ related to the person who has been arrested, but I can confirm there has previously been incidents at the home of Mr. Oscar Pistorius.”
A previous incident occurred in September 2009 when Pistorius spent a night behind bars for allegedly assaulting a 19-year woman who had attended a gathering at his Silver Lakes house.
Pistorius, who was 22 at the time, was charged with assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm at the time, but the charge was later changed to common assault, which ultimately came to nothing.
The South African had recently been talking up his prospects for repeating his London 2012 achievement of competing at the Olympics and Paralympics again at Rio 2016, but that dream is almost certainly over with a possible life sentence in prison looming.
The tragic news has rocked the world of sport, which appears to be at a loss at how to respond to the murder charge against the most recognizable Paralympian on the planet.
South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) President Gideon Sam and chief executive Tubby Reddy released a joint statement.
“The leadership at SASCOC has been inundated with inquiries regarding an alleged shooting incident involving Team South Africa Olympian and Paralympian Oscar Pistorius and his girlfriend,” said the statement. “SASCOC, like the rest of the public, knows no more than what is in the public domain, which is that there has been an alleged fatal shooting on the basis of a mistaken identity and an apparent assumption of a burglary.
“The organization is in no position to comment on the incident other than to say our deepest sympathy and condolences have been expressed to the families of all concerned.
“There is a police investigation, as is customary with any shooting incident, and it would be irresponsible and inappropriate to comment on the alleged incident until the official investigative process has been completed.
“Our thoughts are with the respective families at this time.”
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) were equally stunned in their statement.
“Following the news of the alleged shooting incident involving South African athlete Oscar Pistorius this morning, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) will not be passing any comment on the case at this time,” they said.
“This is a police matter, with an investigation currently underway.
“Therefore it would be inappropriate for the IPC to comment on this incident until the official police process has concluded.
“At this time the IPC would like to offer its deepest sympathy and condolences to all families involved in this case.”
Numerous athletes have also taken to Twitter to comment, including Pistorius’ close friend and rival Jonnie Peacock of Britain, who wrote “can not believe it….”
Ireland’s four-time Paralympic champion Jason Smyth added: “What a shocking story to have just woke up to.”
Contact the writer of this story at firstname.lastname@example.org. Inside the Games is an online blog of the Organizing Committee for the 2012 London Olympics. Its editors continue to cover the world of Olympic sports. This article is reprinted here with permission from the editors.