Tributes pour in for Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp

Paralympic athlete arrested on suspicion of murdering his girlfriend

Twitter is awash with tributes to Oscar Pistorius and his now dead girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis tweeted: "Woken up to the horrendous news about Oscar Pistorius mistakenly shooting his girlfriend. What an awful tragedy." While triple jumper Phillips Idowu added "Waking up to extremely sad news about Oscar Pistorius mistakenly shooting his girlfriend. Terrible tragedy, thoughts & prayers with you".

Prior to the tragic events that unfolded in the early hours of this morning at his Pretorian home - the details of which are sure to emerge in the South African courts in the ensuing days - Pistorius stood out as a rarity of an athlete, one almost universally liked, even loved.

The news, which broke on Valentine's Day, stunned South Africa and the world of athletics. No one was more stunned than Britain’s leading 400m runner Martyn Rooney, who only returned home at the weekend after spending a month training with Pistorius at the Groenkloof Campus in Stellenbosch.

Rooney was too upset to comment today but on 10 Feb he tweeted from South Africa: “Sad to be leaving here, a honour to train with @OscarPistorius and his team for a month.”

Student Samantha Taylor, who dated Pistorius, claimed he was a womaniser and told a newspaper: “Oscar is certainly not what people think he is.”

Steenkamp, who was the face of Avon in South Africa and modeled for men's magazine FHM, was said to be an “absolute angel on earth” by her publicist Sarit Tomlinson.

Tomlinson contined: "We got to hear about it on the news at 8am this morning and we are waiting for official statements. There is too much speculation and no one actually knows what happened."

"She was the sweetest human being and an absolute angel on earth," her publicist said. "It's a huge loss. She was a talented and beautiful girl.

"They had been together for a couple of months and it had been an absolutely healthy relationship."

Pistorius is the most affable of interviewees. He is incredibly unassuming and down to earth, which is far from being a prerequisite for a global sportsmen. He is humble, polite and softly spoken, and from day one has had an ability to treat his disability with humour.

As a 13-year-old boarding at a new school, he assembled his new friends to show them on night one that he had no legs below the knee and asked them, like him, to treat his disability light-heartedly.

"They took the humour to a new level," he recalls. "One night they hid my legs, then poured lighter fluid on my bed frame and lit it. They woke me up and told me the building was burning down, then they all ran out of the door. I couldn't find my prosthetic legs. Then the guys came back in laughing. It was a great practical joke."

Despite his disability, from day one, he has liked to talk of "being blessed", a mantra repeated in his Tweets and the myriad of interviews he has given over the years.

The son of Henke and Sheila, who died when Pistorius was just 15 years old, his past story has been well versed. Born without the fibula, his legs were amputated below the knees before his first birthday.

But his parents never allowed him to be treated differently and, as a result, their son was brought up with a similar mindset to their able-bodied children, coupled with a sheer bloody-mindedness to overcome any obstacle thrown at him.

His first sporting love was rugby but, following a knee injury as a 17-year-old, he was forced to give it up and instead turn to athletics. With that, his trajectory to superstar status began and little over a year later, he was Paralympic champion in Athens over the 200m and the Blade Runner was, in effect, born.

The attention on this remarkable athlete got more amplified each year, even more so with his decision to try to compete against able-bodied athletes at the 2008 Olympics, a matter which went through the courts and led to accusations that his J-flex cheetah legs gave him an unfair advantage.

In the end, the Court of Arbitration for Sport gave him the go ahead to compete but he failed to qualify. He did, though, book his place on the South African team for both the 2011 World Championships and last year's Olympics, making history in the process.

The Games ended with him carrying the flag at the closing ceremony while the ensuing Paralympics were another moment of controversy as he lost out to Alan Oliveira in the 200m and then questioned the validity of the length of the Brazilian's blades in his post-race television interview.

Like much of what Pistorius has done, it gave Paralympic sport yet more profile in the world's media and also him personally, a situation that has not always sat easily with him.

The last time I spoke to him, he had said: "I don't think I'll ever get used to the attention. If you're a musician or an actor, the attention helps you and your career. That's no the case as a sportsman as that attention keeps you away from the track, keeps you from training more and improving."

A devoutly religious man, he prays before every race and, in the warm-up room before competing, usually asks for a fellow rival to pray with him.

Often this was British athlete Martyn Rooney, who until a few days ago had been training in South Africa with Pistorius, while Pistorius' strong beliefs were highlighted by the tattoo on his back quoting the words of St Paul asking for approval from Christ in 1 Corinthians 9:26-27.

He had been set for his first pre-race prayer of 2013 at the Sydney Track Classic on 9 March and had talked excitedly a month ahead of his first of many competitions this season.

His athletic ambitions are unlikely to be anywhere near the forefront of his mind.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
News
The fall in the oil price will hit Russia hard, but is unlikely to personally affect the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin

It looks very much as though 2015 will be a good year for the world economy, after all – and, if it is, that will be thanks to the fall in the oil price. It won't be good for everyone and we have already seen the pressure it puts on the Russian leadership – though, before you conclude that sometimes there is natural justice in the world, remember that the people who are hurt are not leaders such as Vladimir Putin. Other oil- and gas-exporting countries are damaged, too, and I think we will see further fallout in unpredictable ways. But the net impact is strongly positive, more so than most commentators at present acknowledge. The winners far outnumber the losers.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick