Oscar Pistorius was ‘global sports icon,’ manager says

Oscar Pistorius
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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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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”