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Pistorius shooting horror picked up across globe

Thabang Matjama

The world woke up to reports that Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius had allegedly killed his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Oscar Pistorius. (Gallo)

The whole world woke up on Thursday morning to reports that Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius had allegedly killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp at his Pretoria home.

Under the headline "'Blade Runner' charged with murder", the American news website Huffington Post noted that Pistorius is "a national hero in South Africa" who ran 11 races during the 2012 Olympic Games and the Paralympics, returning home with "two Paralympic gold medals, a Paralympic silver, two world records, a Paralympic record, an Olympic individual semifinal and an Olympic final".

He had also been named one of the "sexiest men alive" by People Magazine.

Britsh tabloid the Sun that Pistorius had made history in London last year when he became "the first amputee sprinter to compete in the Olympic Games, running in the 400m and 4x400m relay" .

The UK's Guardian said Pistorius had been described by former middle-distance runner Lord Sebastian Coe before the London Olympics as a "real inspiration to people around the world".

The New York Times, however, noted his interest in guns, and the fact that he had produced a weapon during an interview with the newspaper and taken the reporter, who is not named, to a shooting range. "As he put together lunch for all of us ... he mentioned that a security alarm in the house had gone off the previous night, and he had grabbed his gun and tiptoed downstairs.

Interest in firearms
"I asked what kind of gun he owned, which he seemed to take as an indication of my broader interest in firearms. I had to tell him I didn't own any. "But you've shot one, right?" Actually, I hadn't. Suddenly, I felt like one of those characters in a movie who must be schooled on how to be more manly.

"We should go to the range," he said. He fetched his 9mm handgun and two boxes of ammunition. We got back in the car and drove to a nearby firing range, where he instructed me on proper technique.

"Pistorius was a good coach. A couple of my shots got close to the bull's-eye, which delighted him. "Maybe you should do this more," he said. "If you practised, I think you could be pretty deadly." I asked him how often he came to the range. "Just sometimes when I can't sleep," he said.

The Times of India also focused on Pistorius's darker side, reporting that after he suffered his first loss at the Paralympics over 200 metres in nine years, "he sullied his media darling persona" by questioning the legitimacy of Brazilian winner Alan Oliveira's prosthetic blades.

The comments sparked controversy, though Pistorius was quick to express hisregret and described 100m champion Jonnie Peacock of Britain as a "great Paralympic sprinter".

A number of top athletes reacted with horror on Twitter.

Jessica Ennis, British Olympic gold medallist, said she had "woken up to the horrendous news about Oscar Pistorius mistakenly shooting his girlfriend. What an awful tragedy."

Iwan Thomas, former British 400m runner, was "in total shock to hear the news about athlete and friend Oscar, my thoughts are with him and all involved".

In his tweet South African rugby player Gurthro Steenkamp sent his condolences and prayers "to the family and friends of Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar – shocked!"

Danny Cipriani, England rugby player remarked that "shocking" reports "showed the level of worry and crime in South Africa".

The same theme was taken up by Britain's conservative Telegraph newspaper, which described South Africa as one of the most violent countries in the world where many people have personal firearms in their homes in case of robberies. It reported that last year alone, there were 16 766 reported cases of house robberies.

"There have been several tragic cases where people have killed members of their own household who they mistook for intruders. Last November, a father was arrested for shooting dead his 15-year-old daughter in their garden as she returned home from a night out with friends."

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for our stories, activities and funding sources.

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