Sporting world shocked by charges against inspirational athlete Oscar Pistorius

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News that South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius had been charged with murdering his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, on Thursday came as a shock to nearly everyone who had heard the runner’s inspirational story of his struggle to become the first double-amputee ever to compete at the Olympics.

Pistorius, now 26, was born without fibulas and and had to have his legs amputated below the knee at only eleven months old. That didn’t stop him from competing in rugby, tennis, and water polo while growing up in Pretoria, before being introduced to running in after suffering a knee injury.

Fueled by his competitive spirit and riding on his new racing “blades,” fitted for him by prosthetist Francois Vanderwatt, Pistorius went on to win gold in the 200m at the Paralympic Games in Athens only months after starting to race, and then finished sixth in at the 400m able-bodied national championships the next year.

He won the 100m, 200m, and 400m Paralympic world championships in 2006, and then set his sights on qualifying for the Beijing Olympics. One problem: Pistorius had a number of detractors, including world record holder Michael Johnson, who suggested that his disability was actually an advantage, since the runner raced on specially engineer carbon fiber limbs.

“I know Oscar well, and he knows my position; my position is that because we don’t know for sure whether he gets an advantage from the prosthetics that he wears it is unfair to the able-bodied competitors…

“Oscar sees no limits; he has no fear when competing against able-bodied athletes. So it is hard for people to understand and to accept when you start to talk about whether or not he may have the advantage.”

The IAAF, track’s governing body, agreed, and banned any device using springs, wheels, or any other device that might provide an advantage in 2007, marking Pistorius ineligible for the 2008 Games.

Pistorius eventually won a reprieve with the Court of Arbitration for Sport in April 2008, which, after a two-day hearing in Switzerland, determined that Pistorius held no advantage and was allowed to compete against able-bodied runners.

“Oscar’s done so much for Paralympic sport and I’m grateful for all the eyes he has opened to what Paralympic sport can be,” British Paralympic gold medal sprinter Johnnie Peacock, who started racing after seeing Pistorius on TV, told the London Telegraph.

The “Blade Runner,” as he’s now known, didn’t qualify for the Olympics in 2008, but was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people after winning the right to compete, and signed sponsorship deals with Oakley, Nike, Thierry Mugler, and running blade manufacturer Ossur, in all totaling nearly $5 million.

Now able to compete against the world’s best, Pistorius became the first double-amputee to win an able-bodied world championship medal when his 4×400 relay team took silver in Daegu in 2011. And despite failing to run the necessary Olympic “A” standard qualification time twice, the South African Olympic Committee announced last July 4 that Pistorius had been selected for the Olympic team for the 400m and 4x400m relay.

Two months later, on August 4, 2012, Pistorius became the first double-amputee runner to compete at the Olympics. And better than that, he took second in his preliminary heat with a time of 45.44 seconds, a season best that put him into the semifinals.

“It just felt really magical,” Pistorius said. “If I could predict what it would feel like or imagine beyond my wildest dreams, this was probably 10 times that. To step out in front of a crowd this massive, it’s a mind-blowing experience,” he added. “I’ve had support in the last couple of days like I have never felt before.”

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Pistorius was knocked out in the semis, finishing eighth in the race. After the event, the South African symbolically exchanged racing bibs with Kirani James of Grenada, who eventually went on to win the gold.

“This whole experience was amazing… to step out here in an Olympic final is more than I could have ever hoped for,” Pistorius said after that race. “That opportunity to come here once again and finish today and not yesterday is a dream come true.”

The inspirational athlete was asked to carry the South African flag at the Olympics Closing Ceremony as a tribute to his struggle and success, and went on to earn two more Paralympic golds a month later.

Andre De Grasse wants to ‘spoil’ Usain Bolt’s final season

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Canadian Andre De Grasse may be the best candidate to beat Usain Bolt in the Jamaican’s final major race before retirement at the world championships in August.

De Grasse is already looking ahead to a possible 100m showdown in London.

“Usain is one hell of an athlete, and for me to be one of the best I’ve got to beat him, so I’ve got to continue to keep working hard, stay motivated, stay focused,” De Grasse said Wednesday, according to the Canadian Press. “It’s his last world championships. It’s going to be tough for me. I’ve just got to try to spoil his parade.”

De Grasse, 22, bagged three medals in Rio — silver in the 200m and bronze in the 100m and 4x100m relay. Maybe his most memorable moment came in the 200m semifinals, when he exchanged smiles with Bolt before crossing the finish line.

Neither Bolt nor De Grasse has raced individually outdoors in 2017. De Grasse is slated to debut at a Diamond League meet in Doha on May 5.

Bolt has said he will race the 100m at his final worlds but not the 200m. This means he won’t have a showdown with Olympic 400m champion and world-record holder Wayde van Niekerk of South Africa.

But De Grasse could be a difficult challenge for the 30-year-old Bolt, who has slowed at recent major championships.

Bolt clocked world records at the 2008 Olympics (9.69 seconds) and 2009 World Championships (9.58) but slowed to 9.63 at London 2012 and then 9.77 in 2013 and 9.79 in 2015 and 9.81 at the Rio Games.

De Grasse made his worlds debut in 2015, sharing bronze in 9.92 seconds and then clocking 9.91 in Rio, behind Bolt and American Justin Gatlin.

Gatlin is now 35 years old and coming off an injury-slowed 2016 after he starred in 2014 and 2015. He also has not raced individually outdoors this season but is slated for a Diamond League meet in Shanghai on May 13.

Bolt has not lost a global championship final since 2007 (excluding his 2011 Worlds 100m false start). He was asked two years ago if he would stick to his 2017 retirement plan if he was beaten in his last race.

“I don’t think I could,” Bolt said. “On my last race, my last championship, I don’t think I could.”

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Caitlyn Jenner: Olympic decathlon title one half of ‘ultimate double’

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Caitlyn Jenner says she has ultimate double — winning the 1976 Olympic decathlon and 2015 Glamour “Woman of the Year.”

Jenner sat down with Seth Meyers for an interview during a media tour for her memoir, “The Secrets of My Life,” which was released Wednesday.

She briefly mentioned her Olympic experience, winning the Montreal 1976 decathlon.

Jenner related it to her current work within the transgender community, one that she said is marginalized and misunderstood with high murder and suicide rates.

“What I’m doing today is mort important than winning the Games more than 40 years ago,” Jenner said.

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