'Oscar does not have it in him to hurt someone'
When asked about the charges against Oscar Pistorius, seven-year-old Haflidi has a ready answer, his grandmother says. "It was an accident, Oscar did not want to hurt her. He is my friend."
On Monday, the 26-year-old double-amputee sprinter is due to appear in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court, where he is expected to be served with an indictment for murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, in the early hours of Valentine's Day.
In a sense, Pistorius has been a part of Haflidi's life since before he was born, and over the years Haflidi's family has developed a close bond with the Blade Runner, who has been adviser, friend and most of all a source of inspiration. So much so that Haflidi's grandmother Sigga Hanna Jóhannesdóttir travelled from Iceland in June simply to be there during Pistorius' last court appearance.
"Oscar is a dear friend," said Jóhannesdóttir this weekend. "We believe him, we support him and wanted to show our support hands on."
After all, Pistorius was there when Haflidi needed him, after his family learnt four months before he was born that he would have no legs below his knees.
'I looked at Oscar and calmed down'
The family, Jóhannesdóttir says, was sick with worry, terrified about Haflidi's prospects – until the family's immediate research turned up one Oscar Pistorius."
I read everything there was to find about him, and printed out pictures, of this lovely handsome man, who was running. During the rest of Ebba's pregnancy I had those pictures in my office and at home, and whenever I got worried, I looked at Oscar and calmed down."
Pistorius was not yet the Olympic star he would become later in life, but for Haflidi's family he represented proof that there was little to fear. And once the runner became involved in Haflidi's life in a more tangible way, the family found that what obstacles the little boy would face could be overcome.
The family contacted Pistorius to thank him for the unwitting role he played, Jóhannesdóttir says. Pistorius responded, pointed them to his doctor, and when he visited Iceland in 2006, asked for a meeting.
"We have since then very often met him in Iceland and abroad; we have travelled to Manchester three times and to London to see the Paralympics, and also to South Africa," says Jóhannesdóttir. "We love to watch him run!"
'For you, champion'
The family has many stories about their interaction with – and enormous love for – Pistorius. But the incident that left perhaps the biggest impression on them was during one of those trips to Manchester, at an event in 2008 when Pistorius raked in the medals.
"After [Pistorius's] 400m run we sat nearby on the grass, the sun warming our faces, and watched Oscar, surrounded by the media and fans," Jóhannesdóttir says. "All of a sudden Oscar jumped over the fence between the track and audience with his medal around his neck and ran to us, took it off and put it around Haflidi´s neck [and said] 'for you, champion' and then ran back. No pictures taken, he was doing this for Haflidi, not for the media. Haflidi smiled and asked me: 'Granny? Did I win? Was I good?'
Haflidi runs, plays soccer, does the long jump, and is a "happy little fellow", according to his grandmother, and is treated no different from any other little boy. His family, including his older sister, believe him to be capable of just about anything, having seen Pistorius conquer the world.
The man they know as a friend, Haflidi's family agrees, could not have intentionally killed Steenkamp, with a fervour that makes it seem unlikely they could ever be convinced of the contrary, regardless of what a court may find.
"Oscar is simply a very kind and thoughtful, caring young man, and there is no doubt in my mind that the tragedy happened as he has told the authorities. He was protecting Reeva, he loved her, the only thing on his mind at this time was to protect her," says Jóhannesdóttir. "Oscar does not have it in him to hurt someone."