Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius was ‘global sports icon,’ manager says

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Oscar Pistorius became a “global sports icon” after the 2012 Olympics, his manager said at the athlete’s murder trial Tuesday.

“His profile was raised,” manager Peet van Zyl said of the first double amputee to run at the Olympics. “I think all media would agree with me that the London Olympic Games was about two people, and that was Mr. Usain Bolt and Mr. Oscar Pistorius.”

In February 2013, Van Zyl said Pistorius asked him if girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp could accompany him to overseas track meets.

“I want Ms. Steenkamp to see what my world is about, the pressure I am under, how I need to perform,” Van Zyl quoted Pistorius as saying.

One week later, Pistorius shot four times through a locked door in his Pretoria home bathroom, hitting and killing Steenkamp inside on Valentine’s Day 2013. Pistorius said he thought Steenkamp was an intruder.

He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder. If found not guilty of premeditated murder, Pistorius could be convicted of culpable homicide, South Africa’s version of manslaughter for negligent killing.

Van Zyl said he and Pistorius met at the house on Feb. 7, 2013, when they mapped out his competitive schedule for the season, culminating with the World Championships in Moscow in August.

Pistorius wanted Steenkamp to come with him for races in Brazil on March 31, against Paralympic rival Alan Oliveira, and at the Manchester City Games in England on May 25.

Van Zyl, who has known the athlete since 2004, said Pistorius had never before requested his girlfriend accompany him.

Van Zyl also said Pistorius’ financial value increased by five or six times after London 2012 and that he planned to retire in 2017.

Van Zyl said he had twice seen Pistorius lose his temper, both times with media. In 2009, a crew in Barcelona stuck a camera in his face and called him a cheater. In 2012, a BBC radio journalist asked if Pistorius was an embarrassment to his country, Van Zyl said.

The manager said Pistorius and Steenkamp had a loving relationship and that he sent emails arranging Steenkamp’s travel with Pistorius up to the hours before he learned of Steenkamp’s death. Pistorius was reportedly emotional Tuesday during a court break after Van Zyl described his relationship with Steenkamp.

In cross-examining by the prosecution, Van Zyl was asked about articles written about Pistorius. In one, Pistorius said he shot at a firing range on some occasions when he couldn’t sleep. In another, Pistorius’ London Paralympic roommate said he was forced to move out of their room because “Oscar was constantly screaming in anger at people on the phone.”

Van Zyl said he never saw Pistorius treat somebody in “an aggressive or undignified way” and he did not discuss the firing range story with him, either.

“At that stage, I did not see it as anything negative,” Van Zyl said.

Pistorius’ trial is scheduled to resume at 3:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

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

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Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

Claressa Shields
Getty Images
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Claressa Shields may just be the most dominant female athlete on the planet. The Flint, Mich., native is now a two-time Olympic boxing champion with a 77-1 record and a four-year unbeaten streak.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, who played boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film “The Fighter,” took notice.

He taped a video that Shields watched before a celebration in her hometown Thursday, according to the Flint Journal.

“You are the true definition of a champion,” Wahlberg said. “You continue to inspire so many people, not only in Flint, but all over the world. I’m so proud of you. Your performance was amazing. God bless you. I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to doing lots of things with you.”

Now Shields must decide whether to turn professional, which would end her Olympic career.

“Professional women’s boxing is not nowhere near on the same attention level as the Olympics are,” the 21-year-old Shields said, according to the Flint Journal. “I get way more attention than any female boxer who is professional right now with me being an amateur.

“So the goal is to go professional but still have that same attention and same mainstream. Hopefully, if they have the rule changed that the women professionals can come back and fight the Olympics, I would go professional to fight on TV and make a bunch of money but then come back and defend my two gold medals in 2020.”

MORE: Shields becomes first U.S. fighter to win back-to-back golds

Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse

Abdulrashid Sadulaev
AP
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MOSCOW (AP) — Luxury cars, apartments, even a racehorse — being an Olympic medalist in Russia can come with great material rewards but also controversy.

Under President Vladimir Putin, it’s become a tradition for Russia’s Olympic heroes to be showered with large cash sums and sometimes unwanted gifts.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after dozens of medalists were presented with BMW cars at the Kremlin by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an advertisement appeared online offering one of them for sale, with photographs showing the car still covered in stickers celebrating Russia’s medal haul in Rio.

The advertisement offering the BMW X6 for 4.67 million rubles ($72,000) was anonymous and quickly withdrawn. It couldn’t be independently verified by The Associated Press, though Russian agency R-Sport claimed the seller was a Russian medalist who thought the car was too big and unwieldy.

Figure skater Maxim Trankov, who received a Mercedes-Benz SUV for his gold medal in 2014, said few Olympians could afford to own such cars.

“Has no one thought that these gift cars are not only liable for the tax on luxury items, but also aren’t cheap to run and earnings can’t cover it?” he wrote on Twitter. “I’d sell mine too if it came to it … Or does everyone think all sports pay as well as soccer, hockey or tennis?”

Gymnast Seda Tutkhalyan said she wouldn’t be able to drive her new BMW because at 17 years of age she was too young to have a license.

While online commenters mostly supported an athlete’s right to sell expensive Olympic gifts, many were critical of the government for a display of conspicuous consumption at the Kremlin at a time when Russia’s pension and healthcare systems are under financial strain.

It’s not fully clear how much the prizes have cost the Russian government.

State TV channel Rossiya 24 reported that the fleet of BMWs was provided by the Olympians’ Support Fund, which is backed by a group of Russia’s richest men, but that the accompanying cash prizes of tens of thousands of dollars per medalist came in part from the federal budget.

More awards are on offer from regional governments, many of which made public displays of generosity despite financial troubles of their own.

The Caucasus region of North Ossetia last month promised a free apartment for any medalists from the area, though it isn’t clear if this has happened yet.

In another grand gesture, the head of the restive Dagestan region gave Olympic wrestling champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev 6 million rubles ($93,000) in cash and a racehorse at a lavish welcoming ceremony featured on local TV.

Still, all may not be well for Sadulaev, who’s nicknamed the “Russian Tank” for his habit of crushing opponents on the wrestling mat. He’s already facing an allegation from a Moscow radio presenter of reckless driving in his eye-catching BMW.

MORE: Putin slams Russia’s Paralympic ban