How did Oscar Pistorius lose his legs?

Oscar Pistorius had his legs amputated as a baby, and first walked with prosthetic legs. Now, Oscar Pistorius is on trial for murder and his prosthetic legs may figure as key evidence in the case.

(AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus, File)
South Africa's Oscar Pistorius starts in the men's 400-meter semifinal during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Paralympic superstar Oscar Pistorius was charged in 2013 with the murder of his girlfriend who was shot inside his home in South Africa.

By all accounts, Oscar Pistorius never let his lack of legs slow him down.

Pistorius was born without fibulas (calf bones), and at 11 months old, his parents made the difficult choice to have both of his legs amputated below the knee, enabling him to be fitted with prosthetic legs. Within six months, he was walking.

The son of Henk and Sheila Pistorius, Oscar Pistorius was the middle child of three. He grew up in a middle class South African family, says Biography.com.

As a boy, Pistorius was always athletic and played on sports teams at school, including cricket, wrestling, and boxing. He also played rugby at Pretoria Boys High School, but at one point, injured his knee. As part of his rehab work after the injury, he began running track at age 16.

That choice set him on a path to become an Olympic sprinter known as the "Blade Runner" or as some media dubbed him: "the fastest man on Earth with no legs."

Six months after his rugby injury, Pistorius ran in his first competitive 100-meter race for Pretoria Boys High School. His time: 11.72 seconds, shattering the existing Paralympic world record of 12.20 seconds, according to Pistorius's own website.

About six months after that race, Pistorius was invited to the US offices of Össur, the company that manufactures Flex-Foot Cheetahs – a carbon-fiber, flexible limb designed for jumping and sprinting.  In September of that year, while wearing a pair of Cheetahs, Pistorius won a gold medal in the 200-meter race and a bronze at the 100-meter race in the 2004 Athens Paralympics.

He soon began competing against runners with no prosthetic limbs – and that became a source of controversy.

In 2007, the International Association of Athletic Foundations banned Pistorius from competing, stating that his carbon-fiber Cheetahs gave him an unfair advantage.  He fought the ruling and was eventually allowed to compete and qualified for the 400-meter race in the 2012 London Olympics. He was eliminated in the semi-finals of the race, but became the first amputee athlete to compete at the Olympics.

Now on trial in South Africa, charged with murdering his girlfriend, Pistorius's prosthetic limbs are likely to figure in the case.

Pistorius admits to shooting Reeva Steenkamp on Feb. 14, 2013, but he maintains he mistook the model and reality TV star for an intruder in his home and shot her in self-defense.

"If Pistorius' team can prove that he did not have his prosthetic legs on when he shot – and forensic experts may decipher that from the height of bullet holes in the door and the trajectory of the bullets – it will help his defense against the premeditated murder charge and hinder the prosecution, which initially insisted he fired after taking the time to put on his artificial limbs," according to the Associated Press.

Would Pistorius, a life-long user of prosthetic limbs, be more or less likely to put on his legs if he thought there was an intruder in the house?

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.