Reeva Steenkamp

Oscar Pistorius charged with murder


Oscar Pistorius had a story he would tell. You, he would tell groups of people, wake up in the morning and put on your shoes. I wake up and put on my legs.

Each March for the past two years, Oscar appeared at the Global Sports Forum in Barcelona, Spain, a convention at which I served as the master of ceremonies. He brought his legs -- including the carbon-fiber blades he would run on at tracks around the world, like the ones that would go on to make him famous in London last summer. He urged everyone in the audience to hold them, touch them, pass them around. It was his way of saying, see, you're just like me and I'm just like you.

Now comes the news from South Africa that Oscar Pistorius is under arrest for homicide. His girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model, is dead, shot in the pre-dawn hours in a Valentine's Day slaying at at his upscale home in a gated community in South Africa's capital, Pretoria.

The Associated Press reported that officers found a 9-millimeter pistol inside the home and arrested Pistorius on a murder charge, police saying they had received calls in the past about domestic altercations in the past at his home.

It's more than shocking and stunning that she is dead and that he is facing criminal charges.

Oscar Pistorius leaving a police station Thursday in South Africa // photo Getty Images

First and foremost, her life is gone. And for what?

His life, too, is forever changed. The man who became Paralympic champion and showed the world that, despite disability, you could run in the Olympic Games -- a guy who had it all now is looking at a life behind bars.

The last few weeks have seen the fall of Lance Armstrong and -- now this. Companies quickly moved to take down advertising and billboards featuring Pistorius, who had been a national hero in South Africa, and had inspired millions worldwide with his tale of overcoming adversity.

The police said, according to AP, that no other suspect is involved in Steenkamp's death.

They also said she was shot four times.

Four shots is horrifying.

Even if the shots come in rapid-fire succession, it takes time enough to understand what you are doing to fire four times.

Of course he is presumed innocent. Of course the legal process needs to play itself out.

But there are two obvious questions:

How could this have happened?

And, if indeed Oscar Pistorius fired those shots, what in the world was going on in his mind?

The Oscar Pistorius I came to know -- after our first meeting in Barcelona -- seemed like one of the world's genuinely nice guys. We saw each other again, for instance, at the Pre Classic meet in Eugene, Ore.; a few days later, he came down to Southern California and we talked on the phone, just chit-chat, just hey, how are you, great to see you again, that kind of thing.

At the 2011 world championships in Daegu, South Korea, we talked both on the phone and in the mixed zone about his successes and his frustrations.

Pistorius was left off the South African team 4x400 relay team for the final -- despite helping the team qualify in the early rounds. In our phone call then, he seemed depressed, a quality I would see in him again. But not angry.

Then again, who wouldn't be depressed to be left off the team for the big race? At the time, it seemed understandable.

You wonder now whether Pistorius suffered from depression of the sort doctors would understand. All the years that he was putting on his legs when he looked around and saw so many others putting on shoes -- how did that make him feel, really?

There's an explanation here that, in the coming days or weeks, we surely will learn.

Because a gun doesn't fire four times without reason.

Whatever the explanation, it's not reason enough to bring back Reeva Steenkamp.

So inexplicable.

So inexplicably sad, all around.