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How Pistorius overcame the odds to become a national hero


South Africa's Oscar Pistorius celebrates with his gold medal after winning the Men's 400m T44 final at the Olympic Stadium, London

South Africa's Oscar Pistorius celebrates with his gold medal after winning the Men's 400m T44 final at the Olympic Stadium, London

PA Wire/Press Association Images

South Africa's Oscar Pistorius celebrates with his gold medal after winning the Men's 400m T44 final at the Olympic Stadium, London

Oscar Pistorius overcame considerable odds and fought legal battles to compete alongside able-bodied runners.

But none of the hurdles he has faced before could have prepared the man known as the Blade Runner for the scrutiny that followed after he shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine's Day last year.

Just months before the fateful night, the 27-year-old made history at London 2012 by becoming the first amputee athlete to take part in the Olympics - the crowing glory in a remarkable career that saw him win plaudits and fans all over the world.

Pistorius was born in Pretoria in 1986 without a fibula in both legs.

When he was 11-months-old his parents decided to have his legs amputated below the knee.

His competitive spirit was clear from an early age as he played rugby, water polo and tennis at school.

He turned to athletics at the age of 17 after shattering his knee playing rugby, a move that set him on the path to global stardom.

It was soon after that he began wearing the blades that made him an icon and earned him his moniker.

After two months of training, he set a new world record of 11.51 seconds in the 100m at an open competition at the Pilditch Stadium in Pretoria.

A gold medal in the 200m at the Paralympic Games in Athens quickly followed, along with a new world record.

Pistorius set his sights on competing against able-bodied athletes and in 2005 finished sixth in the 400m at an event in South Africa.

He suffered a setback in his bid to appear in the Olympics in 2008, when the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ruled that his prosthetic legs were ineligible for use in competitions conducted under its rules, including the Games.

But he appealed and the Court of Arbitration for Sport reversed the ban the following May.

Four years later he was named in the South African team for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

After getting to the semi-finals of the 400m individual event, he was part of the South Africa team which finished eighth in the 4x400m relay final.

Those heady days could not have seemed further away when Pistorius was brought before a court in Pretoria to face trial for murder in front of his family, his dead girlfriend's family and, at times, a global television audience.

Pistorius sat listening as the prosecution pored over his alleged previous involvement with guns, his relationship with Ms Steenkamp and the night of her death. He vomited repeatedly in the dock as he heard graphic details of the injuries she sustained.

During his own testimony, the star was repeatedly emotional and broke down weeping and howling as he described the aftermath of the shooting.

He insisted he was "terrified" that the person he fired at in the bathroom of his luxury home was an intruder.

Pistorius revealed he was taking antidepressants and had problems sleeping following the shooting, and told how he had once climbed into a cupboard and called his sister after waking in a panic.

The court also heard details of his upbringing, including the strong influence of his mother Sheila, and his grief at her death when he was a teenager.

The trial was also told of the "security concerns" that the family faced as he grew up, with Pistorius's mother said to have slept with a gun under her pillow amid numerous break-ins.

Pistorius described more recent incidents, including one when he said he was followed into his gated estate and another when he was attacked at a party.

In 2009, he was involved in a boat crash, suffering facial injuries.

As the trial proceeded, the athlete's mental health came under scrutiny and, after a defence expert told the court he had an anxiety order, the judge adjourned for several weeks for him to undergo psychiatric tests.

The case resumed after mental health experts concluded that Pistorius was not suffering from a mental illness when he shot dead Ms Steenkamp.

The defence later cited a psychologist's report which found that the defendant was traumatised and could be a suicide risk unless he received ongoing mental health care.

Pistorius still found himself in the headlines away from court.

In July, his spokeswoman confirmed that he had got into an argument with a man while out at a nightclub.

Last month, his older brother Carl was left in intensive care following a car crash.

PA Media