Oscar Pistorius : his biggest challenge yet

Oscar Pistorius srart lineHow tough must it have been for Oscar’s Mum and Dad making the brave decision for him, when he was aged just  11months, to allow his legs to be amputated below the knee as it offered him a better quality of life and how fantastic, with their nurturing , throughout his schooling he sought no favours, joined in and , for example, played rugby for his school.

His rise to become one of the most recognised athletes in the world, never playing victim or regarding himself as disabled, and winning the affection and respect of able bodied athletes and those with a disability and inspiring them to achieve their goals was I am sure richly deserved.

A modest man but fierce competitor and hard training, pushing himself to get ever stronger and faster and yet generous to his fellow athletes in victory because , like all true athletes, the race is a competition with the self , a battle to keep believing, set new goals and push to new personal bests and beyond.

The news of Reeva’s tragic death and Oscar being responsible and the subsequent bail and now court case has generated an incredible avalanche of social media activity and very probably no sports person in history has generated that much public debate or media attention. To most reasonable people, this was a tragic accident in a society where violent crimes and especially deaths involving guns is second only to the horrendous statistics of Columbia and the USA.  We must never forget that this is a very personal tragedy that has rocked both Oscar’s family and Reeva’s and we must give due respect for both families for the dignified manner in which they have conducted themselves during these terrible times under intense media scrutiny.

We learn that as apartheid was dismantled the RSA abandoned trial by jury and cases are now heard by a Judge assisted at times by two experienced assessors whose principal role is  to assist the judge in reaching a decision on sentencing. We have learned in following the story through social media of failings in policing, evidence gathering and poor forensic practice, of a disaffected police force , under resourced and many former experienced police officers actually left the profession following the end of apartheid ; crime stats ever rising and yet successful convictions, especially for unlawful deaths, actually worryingly low.

We are in no doubt that Oscar alone is responsible for Reeva’s tragic untimely death but we also know that he is a religious man and is so unlikely to have invented a version of events to escape responsibility and personally I cannot recall any defendant in a similar trial so full of remorse, openly sobbing and being sick and struggling with a mixture of emotions trying I am sure to deal with his personal grief under immense pressure and scrutiny.

It is hard to accept the prosecution’s case and they have , in my view, as yet failed to provide any evidence of intent or of it being, as they allege, the result of a violent domestic row that ended in gunshots and the awful death of a beautiful young woman. The prosecution case rests almost solely on attacking the public image of the athlete, with little actual evidence yet openly calling him a liar, a vain, controlling and angry young man prone to violent outbursts and not the virtual saint he appeared to so many of us as and trying to pile up doubt and through inference , to try and  justify the original flawed charge.

Oscar Pistorius gold medal

Public opinion is divided and will of course hold no sway when the honourable Judge reaches her decision but Oscar has very much been the subject of a virtual trial by social media and personally I have never seen any case generate so much personal imput from people active on social media around the world . I’d say that in terms of public opinion on social media, the positive supporters have the most concrete presence and like many of them, have had to deal with quite a bit of personal abuse in sharing my own views and experiences of the man.

I do know from private contacts how touched his family ,coach and defence team have been and have appreciated all the support and through the very few public statements the family have made. Oscar has overcome what for most would be a major handicap to achieve excellence in his sport, but has had to deal with the sport establishment placing barriers in his way and even investigating whether his high tech blades actually gave him an advantage.

I am sharing that  particular image of Oscar in the starting blocks because this trial and its outcome is both a finishing line but the start of a race which is going to be greatest challenge yet for him. The prospect of jail is a possible outcome and conditions in RSA prisons are notorious and you can only imagine how tough that is for anyone and what it is going to be like for a white guy with prosthetic legs.

An athlete of  Oscar’s quality has an amazing work ethic, self discipline and focus and actually lacks any vanity , and the hope is that this mental toughness will help him get through this, find some sense of closure, be able to deal with the grief and get his own  life back on some sort of track.

 

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