ICELANDIC BLADE RUNNING STAR TAKES PARALMYPIC GOLD FROM OSCAR PISTORIUS!

Posted in disability, Parasport on January 10th, 2018 by John Coxon

 ICELANDIC JUNIOR BLADE RUNNER TAKES PARALYMPIC GOLD FROM OSCAR PISTORIUS.  (For Hanna & Halfridi)

Introduction &Background

Looking back on Oscar’s contribution, around the world, challenging misconceptions & raising awareness of disability issues he made a difference indirectly  & directly to people  living with a similar disability to his own, particularly in his real passion for very young people, taking time with them away from the media having fun and encourage them by showing them what can be done with their new custom-made carbon fibre blades which incidentally are incredibly expensive for people in an ordinary income bracket, as much as £8000 a leg. There is a very famous photo,that went viral, of him with a little girl in a yellow dress playing & running against him – so many have copied & shared the image without even finding out who she is or indeed crediting the photographer whose copyright the image is (Brit press photographer (Andy Hooper) The little girl is called Ellie Challis.

 

The families & friends of those people, especially young children, who have been inspired through watching Oscar Pistorius’s global achievement  on the track (& famously tuning upside down popular perceptions of disability) are numerous   as are  those fortunate enough meet him in person &  be a part of many  private , direct encounters with him, typically inspiring, supporting, advising & coaching them so they too can have a “can do” mind set so essential to their well-being & self-esteem whether as runners on the track or in anything they want to do.

 

Oscar will take every opportunity to visit sick kids in hospital specially amputees taking one of his blade legs with him. He visited the world renowned Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital (RMCH) when competing in the BT Paralympic World Cup in East Manchester in May 2012. BT , the UK’s giant telecommunications company both sponsors the games but also Oscar is their brand ambassador  so when they invited him to visit RMCH he jumped a the chance to interact with more kids! ( I actually taught kids there, some terminally ill,  in the hospital school for a couple of months when they were short of staff in the 80s)

It’s about faith because they don’t want to start something at the risk of disappointing themselves and then when they see they can actually do something.That’s the nice thing, seeing people have faith in themselves again and realise that the only difference is now that they are not going to have a foot or that feeling down there, or the look of having a leg, but otherwise they are as mobile as they were before.‘I try to get them to think: 'Ninety per cent of what I was able to do before, I can do again. I can jump off a wall, practical things. I might not be as fast as I was or as extreme, but I can climb, jump, throw, sprint. ‘That’s important. The kids are the easiest ones to convert because their minds are not tainted, they are not cynical. It’s quite special in a way.’

Oscar chat’s openly & easily with kids & with the aid of his blade leg tlks about rehab issues – he is like a big brother & actually, informally he is counselling & mentoring those kids in hospital such is his nature & mission

It is very evident , from a number of TV interviews he has given that Oscar is passionate about challenging people’s perceptions about disability & never misses an opportunity to bring the topic up. He believes education is key ,  where he feels that negative experiences, people with a disability experience , are likely due to ignorance & lack of awareness not lack of respect. Click on this image above to hear him speak about perceptions of disability.

 

"I have a strong sense that I have to educate people about disability"

I have a strong sense I to educate people about disability

Hear how, for example, he is proactive at grassroots level, even on the streets,  challenging taking about disability as  being taboo. So, he sees a  child staring at this prosthetic quickly pulled away by the parent, he consciously goes over to them, introduces himself  & talks to them about his artificial legs – he said we need to talk about these things to make them normal . Fascinating insights from Oscar the man ,honest and articulate as ever & clearly driven  to change perceptions as there is still a need to raise awareness & increase understanding of issues faced by those with a disability.

 

London 2012 – Oscar’s change of legs when he was out of his blades

Children initially  live what they learn  at home & their perception of themselves formed by how their parents treat them.  Common current English parlance does not help in affirming  a person is not defined merely by their disability for there is a world of difference between the two phrases “disabled person”  & “person with a disability.” As a specialist educator, I fought the somewhat dismissive ( in my eyes)  use of  “special needs child”  in favour of child with special needs. This in culture with a lamentable tendency to see the disability, not the person, & how many times for example, did I see  people introduced to a kid in a wheelchair & them , instead of talking to & asking the kid a question, addressed the parent as if the kid wasn’t there.

I am an athlete. I am not “disabled “

Sheila , his remarkable late mother, clearly quite rightly  hated the label “disabled” , used it only once in a declaration to her son that he was not disabled, he simply put on legs where his siblings put on shoes & no different from any other child & banned thereafter the use of that word in their home.  Common current English parlance does not help in affirming  a person is not defined merely by their disability for there is a world of difference between the two phrases “disabled person”  & “person with a disability.” As a specialist educator, I fought the somewhat dismissive ( in my eyes)  use of  “special needs child”  in favour of child with special needs. This in culture with a lamentable tendency to see the disability, not the person, & how many times for example, did I see  people introduced to a kid in a wheelchair & them , instead of talking to & asking the kid a question, addressed the parent s if the kid wasn’t there.

Oscar famously, after quite a fight with the sports international governing body, became the first Paralympian and Olympian in the 2012 in London. Of course, in both Games , all the , of course  had the same values, aspirations  & characteristics in common  but a single difference where , at the Paralympics, athletes performed in conventional events  broken down with a category system to ensure equal advantage, as well, for example, as using appropriate aids & adaptions to empower them to compete.  I can’t imagine any of those people ever referring to themselves as disabled – they are all athlete’s of the highest category, object lessons & role models in not letting anything stand in the way on the path to fulfilment of their goals & dreams.

Paula Returned to triathlon,  after an accident left her paralysed, after rehab, took on the Met Police for disability discrimination & won, changed that organisations culture.  She remains who she was & so not disabled. Athlete, Police Officer & so much more

 

OSCAR’S BEST FRIEND IN ICELAND  Hafliði Guðmundsdóttir (Hafldi)

 

BEST FRIENDS. Halfridi & Oscar                             mutual respect as equals

Oscar  inspired  &  befriended Hafliði , the courageous son ( & his beautiful sister Hanna) of Icelandic TV celebrity host, teacher & healthy food & life style guru Ebba Guðný Guðmundsdóttir  & her  husband  Hafþór Hafliðason  (Hafthor) who works in sports people  management.

Ebba Guðný Guðmundsdóttir

Ebba is the lady who took the seventeen and a half hour flight from Iceland  to South Africa to act as a character witness for Oscar at his trial (where elite athletes & celebrity friends have almost all remained silent since the news broke of Reeva’s tragic death & not spoken up for him.) Oscar first visited their home in Reykjavik (following some correspondence when Ebba had originally written to him for advice as her  lovely son, Halfridi, was having problems adapting to his prosthetics.( Typically Oscar kindly supplied her with his phone number and email)

Ebba & her lovely family – her photo from  http://www.pureebba.com/ website, used with her kind permission – thank you Ebba .

Later, co-incidentally, he was in Reykjavik with his South African prosthetics engineer visiting the Ossur headquarters looking for more effective blades (development of those now famous “Cheetah blades” required a number of visits to Iceland at different time. First time Oscar, from Ossur headquarters I believe, he phoned Ebba and asked if he could visit and of course she was thrilled. This shows how very kind and thoughtful Oscar is & typical of his generosity with people from all walks of life. They shared a family meal and that was the beginning of a genuine, long and happy friendship between all the family and Oscar.

As an indication of the respect, admiration & love for Oscar they had the family came to Manchester in 2009 to watch their hero race at Sport City at BT  Paralympic World Cup,  co-incidentally I attended and first photographed and met  Oscar.

 

He took this  gold at that event and of course by then was firm  friends with the family and as further testament to his humility, kindness  & selfless generous heart, on that  occasion,  straight from the presentation podium,   he gave Haflidi ( then aged just three )the gold medal he won. He was being interiewed by he media close to where the family were sitting & when the news reporter tuned to speak to another athlete, Oscar took the opportunity to run over to the family. Mum Ebba tells the story – ” Me &  my family went to see Oscar Pistorius compete in Manchester 2009. After the race Oscar ran away from reporters and fans (without anyone noticing really – he runs fast! ) and put his gold medal around my son’s neck and said: “This is for you champion” and then he ran right back. It happened so fast I could not even get a photo. My son, beaming with joy, said: “Did I win? .. Was I good?” We keep that medal in a safe place.” Oscar then ran straight back to continue interviews with the sports media

Halfridi Guðmundsdóttir with his gold medal !

From meeting him and following his career I would say that was typical of the man, so far removed from all the lies the prosecution made up about him, (Nel trying to destroy his reputation & character in the absence of any decent evidence) as if he was attention seeking, vain & aggressive which he so is not, never was and never could be. This is not to make light of his responsibility for causing Reeva’s death but like so many who have met him or know him there is no way Oscar could wilfully kill anyone & they like the family accept his version of events, that is he made a terrible tragic mistake.

Halflidi & Hanna a few years back & all grown up now In such a loving home environment with inspiring parents you can achieve your dreams. I can see, the one a world class runner, the other a famous dancer  (image courtesy of Mum,Ebba Gudny Gudmundsdottir)

As a dad and a grand dad myself I can see how genuine Oscar is and so great with children. It is actually very hard to fool kids – they are so astute and can see through fakes immediately. During her testimony Ebba related a side of Oscar which just shows how aware & sensitive he really is in other people’s needs & not just the obvious ones. This is terms of issues facing families one of whose children has a disability & in this instance between a disabled & and able bodied sibling.

Oscar has a wonderful , genuine affinity with kids & always eager to inspire them to achieve their dreams in whatever field or their ability- he is a “you can do it “kind of person .

So often the able bodied child feels they are largely ignored, for example by visitors, and that their disabled brother or sister gets all the attention. Ebba  attested to Oscar’s awareness and sensitivity  demonstrated by the fact that from their first meeting Oscar always treated  Hanna and Halfridi  equally.

Ebba’s whole family were , you’d of course have guessed ,devastated for Oscar when news of Reeva’s death broke, sympathetic of course for Reeva’s family loss bu no doubt aware that Oscar truly loved Reeva and could only imagine how painful her  loss has been for him.They have not judged him and kept the faith in their friend though. and, as Ebba told the court,  he is still their hero. I am sure , like myself and fellow campaigners, they are hopeful that Oscar’s appeal to the constitutional Court sometime this year, with the aid of his father , Henke, a qualified advocate, will be successful and looking forward to Oscar’s early release so that he can find closure and continue the healing process.

Oscar of course, got the harshest treatment ever handed down in all similar cases, where suspended sentences were always given, and both the prosecution and the Supreme Court of Appeal discriminated  against him because of his celebrity but also ignored his disability as a factor in him feeling more vulnerable on his stumps facing a perceived threat at night, than an able-bodied person would. The idea that he had shown no admission for wrong doing and failed to show remorse is frankly absurd. Surely a global TV audience were witness to a broken man so was very evidently traumatised & grief & remorse  ridden as he faced his responsibilities at trail. Yet Nel &  many, many  armchair critics, perversely took the view that this display of  raw emotion had been tutored or was distress the result of wanting to avoid responsibility. The state had to deny &  ignore Oscar’s true feelings and state of mind at trial as  an  excuse  to greatly increase his already grossly excessive sentence ( viewed against all similar cases where only suspended sentences were ever handed down.)

Oscar,an exceptionally sensitive & loving individual, clearly had finally found his soul mate in Reeva. He acted, albeit in tragic error, to protect the woman he loved & it is utterly absurd to even suggest he was capable of deliberately harming her in any way, or indeed, anyone else, It’s, frankly, obscene the state continues to deny his grief & remorse is absolute & entirely genuine..

Judge Masipa, when giving her just  & merciful judgement would very definitely have mentioned “lack of remorse” in determining her sentence & would of course  have referred to  it in her closing statements had their been  grain of truth in the accusation. We should also recall the sincere, spontaneous, tearful apology Oscar gave in open court to Mr  & Mrs Steenkamp, expressing profound regret & remorse. Both the Steenkamps & Oscar are  Christians; Oscar is very evidently devout &  God fearing & , we learn in both prisons, reads his bible as part of his daily routine & has derived much comfort from it. We have seen from his history of selfless altruism, well away from the media & with no wish at all to draw attention to himself or trade on his “good works” . That altruism is especially, but not exclusively, shown towards kids with a disability ,  embodying his faith in action, & reflecting his true personality , personal integrity & complete honesty. I am sure if you asked Ebba’s two kids , is Oscar the genuine article, this would be their unequivocal response , as would be their mum and dad’s !

 

Both the NPA, Prosecutor Nel and the SCA dismissed as unfounded, the defence’s ( not Oscar who has never used disability as an excuse for anything) assertion that, given Oscar’s family history as victims of violent crime , and even though Oscar led the life of a normal healthy child and school boy. out in public, as a double amputee he , like so many with disabilities, had a heightened sense of vulnerability and anxiety about his personal safety.

South African be such a dangerous place to live with violent crime stats off the scale & yet the state ask us to believe that a life long double amputee had no reason to feel any more vulnerable or anxious about personal safety than able-bodied citizens? ?

 

Directly and indirectly,all the state’s  judicial representatives at all levels involved in Oscar’s case, except the remarkable original judge Masipa, implied that a citizen should feel completely safe in their homes at night when the reality is unlike Ebba’s  unique small island nation, Iceland, South Africa is one of the most dangerous countries to live in the world with incredibly high violent crime figures in comparison to most other countries not as war. On average there are 50 murders a day and armed , often lethal home invasions are commonplace, and, a citizen is no more immune from such attacks living in a gated community with security guards ( unarmed) as Oscar did.  He had in fact bought a new home for Reeva and himself the Christmas before her tragic death, this to move to a safer, more secure neighbourhood in the city.

Note: To visit Ebba’s website follow this link  Ebba’s Website & Blogs 

(Ebba ha s many talents & some of her professional roles include popular TV presenter ( she has her own cookery show focusing on simply healthy option quick recipes) teaching & lecturing on her passion, healthy lifestyles & nutrition all done in an endearing non-preaching informal & friendly style.

 

  • Please follow me on Twitter where I post regularly with further information about Oscar’s case  & treatment by the criminal justice system.

 

 

Please visit the largest most proactive Facebook community page I contribute regularly to,  dedicated to supporting Oscar providing factual information about Oscar’s case & treatment in law  dedicated to raising awareness of the key issues under pinning the case & evidencing his treatment raises serious doubts about the criminal justice system & the soundness of subsequent verdicts beyond the original trial. (Please like the page  to join the 62 thousand supporters there.

 

 

 

 

Footnote. 

 

 

 My Unreserved Apology to Ossur

We re aware, as journalists ,with an interest in sports  that athletes with a high profile earn substantial incomes from product endorsement as Oscar did. almost immediately news broke, most major sponsors immediately dropped Oscar to guard their brand’s image. As testament to a different business ethic in Iceland than elsewhere, Ossur played  huge part in facilitating Oscar’s success, providing him with state of the art  revolutionary blades  to replace the relatively crude ones he had before. Unlike other major sponsors who dropped him immediately news of Reeva’s death broke, they stood by their ambassador longer than any other  to their great credit.

The company have had Oscar on their team since he was just eighteen years old. Early last year , when using Twitter & referring to my dismay at all sponsors immediately abandoning Oscar to preserve brand image, I wrongly included Ossur in that somewhat disdainful Tweet written in sheer frustration.  I want  to apologise unreservedly to the company & thank them for all they have done to facilitate Oscar’s phenomenal achievements & for standing by him as  long as they could &  not judging him. I have to thank Ebba for pointing out my unfortunate error. I have  put the record straight on my Twitter  & wished the company the continued success they deserve , in  making such a difference in terms of delivering the best possible mobility to those in all walks of life not just elite athletics , thank you.

 

 

 

 

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WHY OSCAR PISTORIUS IN NOT GUILTY OF MURDER & BECAME VICTIM OF A MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE.

Posted in disability, Parasport on December 17th, 2017 by John Coxon

Oscar never denied accidentally causing Reeva’s death &, in a fair trial, the charge of murder was found to be unsound & he was justly sentenced for the lesser crime of manslaughter which showed he was treated justly & impartially by Judge Masipa, (under such intense pressure to appease public opinion  & showed the High Court system in good light. What was to happen thereafter was however grossly unjust where Oscar was to become a victim of one of the worst miscarriages of justice in South Africa’s legal history. This, where the National Prosecution Agency, refusing to accept the valid verdict of not guilty of murder & sentenced for a lesser charge of manslaughter by one of the nation’s most impartial, tough & experienced judges for causing the death of the woman he loved, tragically mistaking her for an intruder.

Much has been made, despite a fair trial the world saw on their televisions, that Oscar benefited from “white privilege” & somehow got special treatment & a very light sentence at the original trial. Given the unacceptably aggressive on-going behaviour, during cross-examination of the Prosecution most senior advocate, Nel, which included slanderous repeated accusations that Oscar was a liar & whom he sought to publicly humiliate, there can be no way Oscar got any special treatment whatsoever court.

In fact, in all similar cases, where for example, more recently two Pretoria fathers accidentally shot dead their daughters, mistaking them for intruders & yet neither got any form of custodial sentences where in such circumstances, the norm has always been a suspended sentence. No one previously charged with a similar crime was ever forced to endure their trial under the scrutiny of a world TV audience or has been suffered from a prosecution advocate falling so far short of international standards for court behaviour & who breached his own profession’s code of conduct time & time again (where he brutally insulted, slandered, bullied, brutalised & humiliated a clearly traumatised grief ridden defendant.

The original trial, unprecedently, was televised with the consent of Judge President Duncan Malabo who, with disregard for the simple fact that recording for TV can and does compromise justice & influence the behaviour of legal professionals & adversely affects witnesses, saw cameras in court as a golden opportunity to dispel the public misconception that High Courts were not impartial & deferred to the wealthy. As it turned out the criminal justice system got its much-needed propaganda coup where Masipa showed wisdom, impartiality, refused to bow to public pressure & expectation & dispensed justice, based solely on the evidence brought before her, dismissing the state’s charge of murder as being unsound & sentencing the athlete for the crime he actually committed, that of manslaughter.

Masipa  is one of the most experienced, impartial & respected Judges in the country  & she accepted Oscar’s version of events, & that his additional vulnerability, facing a perceived threat without his prosthetic legs combined with other factors were mitigating circumstances. Moreover, she went out of her way, both at the end of the original trial & later when she was forced to resentence Oscar (for a murder she did not believe he was guilty of committing) to dismiss as false, the public misperception that there had been a violent row receding Reeva’s death or that her death was a gender abuse domestic violence killing. She stressed no evidence whatsoever had been brought to court to substantiate such an interpretation of events.

However, subsequently, we witnessed an extraordinary chain of events, (which simply would not happen in countries with more robust systems) clearly seriously undermines the credibility of the South African criminal justice system ,& is tantamount to a gross miscarriage & travesty of justice in comparison to any similar case. (This where those defendants were not a globally famous celebrity & thus of no state propaganda value) Prosecutor Nel, second in command at the NPA, instigated a spurious appeal, undermining Masipa’s just & transparently fair verdict. The NPA that politically flawed chaotic, currently rudderless agency, with an on-going appalling record in terms of successful prosecution /conviction rates, it seems to me, so needing success, a scalp at any cost, in this their highest profile case ever.

That the SCA even considered such an appeal is an indictment of their behind closed doors practices as being far from impartial & to have ignored all factual evidence, including that of the state’s own independent psychiatric experts, & reversed a valid High Court verdict & change the verdict back to murder is unprecedented & defies belief in terms of any decent international standards.  Tragically farcical the SCA essentially forced Masipa to resentence Oscar for a crime she did not think he committed but then, the NPA launched another successful appeal & got a much longer sentence to compound their injustice.

There was never any evidence ever presented to prove Oscar had any deliberate intent to kill &, unbelievably, the SCA , without such  evidence, & actually ignoring all available factual evidence, ruled on the basis that, in theory, Oscar acted with intent, as a deliberate choice rather than a fear based , self- preservation, instinctive reaction to a perceived threat, & solely on the basis that, because he must have known ( how could he ? ) that in firing, death would be inevitable. The purely legal theory, non-science based SCA choice, where proven beyond all reasonable doubt should be the over-riding standard & we should note, the SCA judgement makes no reference to Reeva but concluded Oscar “murdered” the person behind the door. This where the prosecution’s whole case had rested on their fiction that Oscar knew she was hiding there & shot her in a blind rage.

 

 

Post Script

I am a retired specialist educator with 26 years’ experience teaching & mentoring young adults with the complete range of disabilities, medical conditions & learning issues, as well as those, so often challenging & at times physically aggressive, with social & emotional problems, providing detailed impartial assessments to help inform multiple agencies in making educational & other provision tailored to individual needs. Some of those young adults were inconsequential, & tried many different tactics, including deceit, to avoid responsibility, thus I consider myself very well qualified to make judgements between fakes  & the genuine & separate fact from fiction based on evidence not prejudice or subjective opinion.

On meeting Oscar in 2009 & watching him in action on the track & chatting to him some 30 minutes, from my own observations, in public & later in private I saw no evidence what so ever of any vanity, aggressive pathology, attention seeking or self- idealisation, just a grounded, gentle, humble & modest young man. Hence, when news broke of Reeva’s death, the charge of a rage fuelled gender abuse murder to me seemed highly unlikely & thereafter I followed the case, watched the trial & studied all the evidence, the reports including ballistics and the psychological assessment report. I also did much background research, for example, into the climate of violent crime in South Africa which puts Oscar’s tragic error in proper perspective.

 

When I met him I had no idea just how turbulent & violent South Africa actually is, but through research, found the country has one of the worst records in the world for murders including so many violent brutal, often fatal home intrusions & the climate of fear that generates. No wonder people feel it necessary to legal arm themselves for self-defence as Oscar did, & surely, for Oscar, additionally fearful, living life as a double amputee off the track. After four years & thousands upon thousands of unpaid professional hours of study & campaigning for the athlete, in that time I have found not a shred of evidence to contradict Oscar’s version of events & actually believe, he is not capable of murder & is in fact the very same character I met back then in 2009. Here is a heart broken man who simply made an understandable tragic error & who, based on all the evidence I have accumulated & in reflecting on the excessive treatment he has suffered at the hand of the criminal justice system, not in the High Court but through what I can only see as a collusion between the NPA & SCA. Oscar really is the victim of a gross travesty of Justice.  Tragically, it seems, there is nothing in place to redress that miscarriage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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