As a South African, Oscar Pistorius represented so much I was proud of but what hit me most was his sense for justice in the sporting arena. As a South African, I understand too well the fight for Justice.
The fight against Apartheid was a tough lesson for all South Africans, no South Africans can argue that they were unaffected by Apartheid, the fight against it and the continued fight to overcome the roots it laid. As an international community we all look for not only the sense of equality but a true justice that all of humanity can hold itself accountable to.
With Oscar Pistorius, we saw the continued fight for Justice. This time it was not about Race, but rather about those persons who are disabled. The Blade Runner, as he became known to the world, took the sports world on like no one else has before.
In 2008 at the Beijing Paralympics he captured hearts with his haul of three Gold Medals, the best and most dramatic of these being the 100m final where he came from nowhere to cross the line first. Watching the event I remember when Oscar started to make his push during the race. My heart raced with each stride/slice his blades gave the turf, my voice grew stronger as I screamed encouragement all the way from Cape Town, pushing him forward to the line. I wasn’t the only one who cheered, as he headed in first place; there were plenty South African’s who had lived the race together with me and more importantly with Oscar. Oscar was our hero and we were proud to have him wear our colours.
Sports channels replayed the race over and over again and no matter where you were, you couldn’t help but stop and watch it again. Every time it replayed, you re-experienced the emotions as Oscar left the blocks last and then turned on his jets to overcome everyone in the field. Not only had he broken the World record but he’d also smashed the notion that ‘double amputees could not compete with single amputee athletes’. He instantly became an international hero and his public persona was exactly what we want from sports people, he was passionate about his craft, smart, witty and polite. It was no surprise that he was able to gain public support for his appeal to compete with abled bodied athletes at the 2012 London Olympics, his next fight for Justice.
Oscar’s appeal was rejected by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF); they argued that Oscar’s Blades gave him an unfair advantage! The irony, that a disabled athlete had an advantage over abled bodied athletes, was just preposterous in the eyes of the ‘Oscar-Loving’ public. The IAAF also amended its rules to not allow “any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides a user with an unfair advantage over any other athlete”. Oscar did not allow this to deter him from his goal of gaining equality and ultimately justice in the Athletics arena and took the Federation to Court. Oscar won his appeal; the court decided that his lack of ankles resulted in him not having a “net advantage” over abled bodied athletes.
Of course the world celebrated as another fight against Discrimination was won. It would also celebrate and get behind Oscar as he became the first amputee runner to compete at an Olympic Games in London 2012. Oscar made it to the semi-finals of the 400m and in so doing changed people’s stereotypes towards disabled athletes.
Of course those were the good old days when Oscar could do no wrong. Today he has shocked and disappointed the world, especially those who still celebrate his victories against discrimination and injustice. The media that held him to great heights has brought him down to earth. Suddenly the public is being exposed to Oscar the tantrum throwing, gun owning/carrying, women abusing athlete. Oscar for the first time finds himself on the opposite side in a fight for Equality and Justice. His trial brings up many topical points but I find that there are two which jump out immediately, Abuse against women and Gun ownership.
My first question on the events of what happened to Oscar is, ‘Why does he own a Gun?’ He lives in a gated community which has 24hr armed security surveillance. Why would someone wish to do harm to one of the nation’s national heroes? In South Africa there are approximately 1.5mil people who privately own guns, not all for sport if you get my meaning. I’ve never been able to comprehend the need for a gun in the household and I am happy to remain ignorant on the issue. I don’t think it lends itself well to living in a ‘peacefully democratic South Africa’, to borrow the words of Madiba. So again why would a celebrity like Oscar feel the need to own a gun? Owning a gun opens up another world where ‘fatal’ accidents occur, like in May 2012 when a man killed his daughter thinking she was burglar. Please can we rethink this issue?
Oscar’s ‘indiscretion’ could not come at a worse time, with South Africa still coming to terms with a horrific gang rape and mutilation of a 17 year old girl. It’s time for women and children to be better protected against abuse. Friends of mine argue that society needs to revaluate how we celebrate masculinity and rethink what defines ‘being a Man’. With the alleged history of Oscar’s relationship with Reeva Steenkamp, are we surprised that it ended this violently? Domestic abuse in South Africa is shockingly high and needs to be brought down. Surveys conducted by the South African Medical Research Council found that 40% of men have hit their partners. Enough is enough, South Africa we need to start imposing the Equality and Justice for which we as a country fought for.
As for Oscar, I do feel for him. It must be terrible what he is going through. Whether his actions were by accident or premeditated, we will find out during his trial. I am divided on the issue and like Usain Bolt, I guess I want to wait and see before I make a decision on Oscar. I do think that it’s peculiar, that again he will be involved in fight for Justice, only this time he’s the villain.