NO LONGER AT FAME
By: Tony Manyangadze
Loud grumblings growing into shouts could be heard from blocks away. An over abundance number of journalists and locals stood outside eagerly waiting to hear the outcome of this steaming story. Inside, there was no place for the slimmest person to even squeeze in and stand. Pretoria Magistrate Court was the venue for this momentous occasion.
Moments later a police van came, and from it disembarked a man wearing a black hoody covering his head and face. Within seconds of his arrival, those outside swarmed around this hooded man as he made his way into the court room. There, his fate was going to be decided.
The crime he had committed created a new image of him that even he could not look at. But just less than a month ago, he wasn’t like that. He was a man adored by women and admired by men, a darling to the nation and an inspiration to the world. Oscar Pistorius is his name.
Pistorius’ story is one of the saddest and most inspiring life stories that have touched the hearts of many people around the world. He was born 26 years ago with an undeveloped fibula in both legs, a rare condition called Fibula Hemimela. This led to his parents, Henke and Sheila Pistorius, to make one of the toughest decisions a parent can ever make. After serious considerations, Oscar’s legs were amputated. A traumatic decision it was, but one that made him an outstanding athlete that he is today.
Even though Oscar had lost his legs, he never lost his dream. He was a natural born athlete and tried many sports including rugby, water polo, tennis and even wrestling. The question of how he could achieve all his feats despite his double amputation made him famous and special to many people. One time during an interview when asked how he does it, his response was simple and yet so powerful. “You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have,” replied Oscar.
At the age of 15, Oscar’s mom, Sheila, died following a reaction to certain medication. This was a huge blow to Oscar as she was his pillar of strength.
“My mother used to tell us in the mornings, ‘Carl put on your shoes, Oscar put on your prosthetic legs, and that’s the last I want to hear about it,” recollected Oscar during an interview.
This made him feel accommodated and not marginalised, differently able and not disable. His mother made sure of that, and to her he is very grateful.
“I grew up not really thinking I had a disability. I grew up thinking I had different shoes,” he said.
Just like he overcame the loss of his legs, Oscar picked himself up and never looked back. This is what made him stand tall, his attitude of not letting situations get the best of him.
In June 2003, he was injured during a rugby match and for rehabilitation, Oscar joined the running team and within a year his newly found career reached the ceiling. He took part in the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Australia. During one of the preliminary rounds, Oscar fell and finished last in the race. But just like always, he never looked back. Oscar went on to qualify for the finals. He crossed the line first setting a new world record and winning his first gold medal. From that day the nation and the world loved him. Coming from a background filled with adversities and still managing to achieve so much is just phenomenal.
In 2008, Oscar challenged history much to the surprise of the world by aiming to become the first amputee to take part in the Olympics. In the eyes of many, Oscar had achieved more than enough but in his heart he knew he still had a lot to prove. He wanted to prove that it’s mostly our state of mind that restricts our ability.
The issue of him being considered for the Olympics was a long shot, it would not happen overnight. The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) raised concerns about safety and ‘unequal yoking’. They did not only claim that Oscar’s prosthetic legs can be a hazard to him and other participants, but also assumed that the legs could give him advantage over able-bodied athletes. Oscar being a darling to the world, the decision was reversed. Pistorius was then offered an automatic qualification which he refused to take because he did not want to be seen as different from others and treated as such.
“If I have to take part in the Beijing Games I should do it because I qualified,” he said.
Rather, Pistorius took the opportunity to focus on the preparations for the 2012 London Olympics since he could not make it for the Beijing Games. “Sprinters usually reach their peak between 25 and 26. I will be 25 in London and I will also have two- three years’ preparation,” Oscar comforted himself and assured his fans.
In 2012 Oscar’s dream came true! He became the first amputee runner to participate at an Olympic Games event. Pistorius came second in the first heat. He then finished eighth in the second semi-final. The relay team did not do well either as one of Oscar’s teammates was tripped and fell metres before handing the baton to Oscar. This might not have gone as many would have expected but it was a great achievement. Oscar’s fame grew even further. He earned the title ‘the fastest man on no legs’. Everything was falling into place; sponsors were pouring in from all over the globe and back home, his love life was also on the high. It was just a dream, a dream that most wish to dream, let alone see it come true.
When all things were going so well, the unthinkable happened. It was in the wee hours of Valentine’s Day that the fate of South Africa’s sweetheart, Oscar Pistorius, took a new turn. Four gun shots were fired in Oscar’s luxurious home in Pretoria resulting in the death of his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
Oscar admits to firing the deadly shots and is taken in by the police. The news of his arrest spreads like wild fire. A murder case is opened and the world is brought to a standstill as Oscar appears in court and everyone waits with batted breath to hear what really happened.
There in the court room Oscar stood, looking down probably regretting why he climbed the staircase of fame. It is said that the higher you climb up the staircase of fame, the harder the plunge of your downfall. All eyes are on him now as the world awaits to see if he will dust himself and get back up again.