Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius’ cross-examination ends at murder trial

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The chief prosecutor in Oscar Pistorius‘ murder trial ended five days of cross-examining the runner Tuesday, saying Pistorius knowingly fatally shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp after they had an argument on Valentine’s Day 2013.

Pistorius, who has said he shot through a door thinking an intruder was behind it, called it a “hypothetical” argument.

“Your version is not only untruthful, it’s so improbable that it cannot be reasonably true,” prosecutor Gerrie Nel said, drawing an “I don’t agree” response from Pistorius. “You armed yourself with the sole purpose of shooting and killing her.

“Afterwards, you were overcome by what you’ve done. … Only because it was your intention to kill her.”

Those final comments from Nel with Pistorius in the witness box were subdued compared to his most stinging questions in the Pretoria court room on the 23rd day of the trial.

Pistorius, the first double amputee to run in the Olympics in 2012, faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder. If not found guilty of premeditated murder, he could be convicted of culpable homicide, South Africa’s version of manslaughter for negligent killing.

“Who should we blame for the Black Talon [bullet] rounds that ripped through her body?” Nel asked, drawing Judge Thokozile Masipa to intervene, saying it was a rephrasing of previous questions.

Pistorius recounted his actions from last year after he shot four times through a locked bathroom door, hitting Steenkamp inside.

He said he bashed open the door with a cricket bat, crouched over Steenkamp seated on the floor and checked to see if she was breathing. Pistorius felt that she wasn’t at first, but then he said he heard her breathing.

“I was talking to her all the time, saying baby please hold on,” Pistorius said. “Jesus, please help me. I was praying for her.”

He tried to but couldn’t pick her up, so he moved her outside of the toilet room and into the outer bathroom. He grabbed her phone from inside the toilet room but didn’t know the passcode to access it. So he ran into his bedroom, took his phone and called for help.

Pistorius said he screamed while trying to break into the bathroom but was questioned by Nel as to why he stopped yelling out when he saw it was Steenkamp behind the door.

“I was broken,” Pistorius said. “I was overcome by sadness. So I wouldn’t have screamed out.”

In brief re-examination, defense attorney Barry Roux had Pistorius read the Valentine’s Day card that Steenkamp made for him that Pistorius did not open until Aug. 19, Steenkamp’s 30th birthday.

“Roses are red, violets are blue,” Pistorius said it read on one side. “I think today is a good day to tell you that I love you.”

Later, forensic expert Roger Dixon testified, with the aid of photos, of how dark Pistorius’ room was, about damage to the toilet door and wounds to Steenkamp’s back and butt. Pistorius covered his eyes and ears while Dixon talked about Steenkamp’s wounds.

Nel asked for a trial break until May 5, still expecting to fit it in the window deadline of May 16. Masipa said she would rule on that Wednesday.

Here’s NBC News’ full coverage of the trial.

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Javier Fernandez rebounds to lead Grand Prix France

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Spain’s Javier Fernandez was back at his best, landing two quadruple jumps to top the Grand Prix France short program on Friday.

Fernandez, who was sixth at his opening Grand Prix two weeks ago with a reported stomach bug, tallied 107.86 points in Grenoble. It’s the second-best score of his career.

The 2015 and 2016 World champion goes into Saturday’s free skate with a 13.94-point lead over Shoma Uno of Japan. Uno fell on his opening quad flip attempt.

Uno went into France as the clear favorite, the only man to break 300 total points this season. He did it at both of his competitions this fall.

Earlier Friday, Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond led a group of favorites who topped the short programs for the women, pairs and ice dance. All of the free skates are Saturday.

GP FRANCE: Full Results | TV Schedule

Both U.S. men fell Friday, not helping their cases for the three-man Olympic team.

Max Aaron, the 2013 U.S. champion, fell on his opening jump combination. He failed to build on his personal-best free skate from his last competition, where he landed three quads to claim bronze at Cup of China.

U.S. silver medalist Vincent Zhou crashed on both quadruple jump attempts, two weeks after falling three times between two programs at his Grand Prix debut.

Zhou, 17 and the world junior champion, has the jumps to easily make the three-man U.S. Olympic team. But those big mistakes allow the likes of Jason Brown and Adam Rippon to pass him.

“To say the least, my performance was dismal,” was posted on Zhou’s Instagram. “It was not a representation of how I train or who I am. Smiling and waving while my heart is breaking is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I have been following my Olympic dream for as long as I can remember, fighting, being set back, conquering obstacles, and experiencing the ups and downs of striving to better myself every single day. I am capable of so much more. I am a fighter. I fully believe that I can and will draw on my spirit, inner strength, and faith to my words to perform much better in the future.”

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Internationaux de France
Men’s Short Program
1. Javier Fernandez (ESP) — 107.86
2. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 93.92
3. Alexander Samarin (RUS) — 91.51
8. Max Aaron (USA) — 78.64
10. Vincent Zhou (USA) — 66.12

Erin Hamlin nears end of historic U.S. luge career

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Erin Hamlin is looking forward to normalcy. She is getting married next summer in her hometown. She is thinking about career moves. She is trying to figure out the rest of her life.

It is probably her last luge season. It is definitely her last Olympic season.

As such, it would be easy to fall into the trap of saying that winning a gold medal at PyeongChang in February would be the only thing that makes this season a success.

It’s important, sure, but Hamlin is entering her 13th year of World Cup racing with a much broader view and insisting that she’s going to enjoy whatever time she has left on her sled.

“I’m not going to hyperfocus myself on one result or bust,” Hamlin said. “Very likely, it’s going to be my last time in a lot of places, sliding on a lot of tracks. So I think more so, it’s going to be a lot of soaking it all in.”

That process starts Saturday, when the World Cup season opens in Igls, Austria.

Hamlin, who turns 31 on Sunday, is coming off the finest year of her career — she won a gold medal and two silvers at the world championships for the biggest haul ever by an American luger, got two World Cup wins and finished fourth in world rankings.

She might be going out, and there’s a chance she can go out on top.

“We’re working hard to convince her to stay,” longtime U.S. teammate Emily Sweeney said.

Sweeney knows that’s probably futile.

Sliders always tend to cycle out after an Olympics, no matter if it’s bobsled, skeleton or luge, and the Americans will see plenty of veterans take their last rides this winter.

A few U.S. sliders already retired this fall, in part because they weren’t going to have a shot at an Olympic berth.

For her part, Hamlin hasn’t officially said this is the end.

“There’s never really as concrete of a plan as you hope there would be, because you never know what can happen,” Hamlin said. “But at the moment, what I’m excited to do is see what other opportunities are there and what other adventures await.”

Hamlin has been in the world’s top 10 in each of the past 11 seasons — the second-longest current streak of any woman in luge, one year behind German legend Tatjana Huefner.

She won a World Cup each of the past three years, took the world title in sprint last winter and became the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medalist in 2014 with a bronze.

A lesson learned that season: Not expecting much can work wonders. That’s one of the reasons why PyeongChang isn’t taking up all the bandwidth in her brain.

“That’s the nature of winter sports in a Winter Olympic year, there being so much focus on the Games,” Hamlin said. “How I went into the last Olympics taught me a lot. I had no expectation of walking away from the last Olympics with a medal. At this point, goal No. 1 is to make the team and beyond that, I know if I slide as I’m capable of I can be pretty fast and I can do well.”

The schedule this season is hectic.

This weekend’s stop in Austria starts a run of five races in five weekends, with the next two in Germany followed by another in Calgary, Alberta, and then on home ice in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Dec. 15-16.

When that Lake Placid World Cup is over, the U.S. Olympic team will be named.

So when Hamlin needs an escape from all that, the wedding is there to bring her back to reality.

It will be at her parents’ home in July. It will, without question, be the social event of the season in Remsen, N.Y., where the one-time high school soccer player has annually left her tiny hometown brimming with pride.

“Pretty exciting,” Hamlin said. “It’s definitely adding a whole new aspect to an Olympic year, planning a wedding, but it’s cool. It gives me a good distraction when I need to think about something other than sliding.”

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