Looking back: this is the very first time Oscar appeared in YOU


He's just been sentenced to six years in prison for murdering his girlfriend, shooting her dead behind a bathroom door.

But before Oscar Pistorius was a convicted killer, even before he was a world-famous athlete, he was a double-amputee school boy with a lot of a talent.

This was the first interview YOU did with Oscar. He was just 17.

Oscar story

HENKE Pistorius was understandably excited when his 17-year-old son consistently ran the 100 m at school in just over 11 seconds. That's a pretty respectable time for any two-legged runner. For someone without legs it's miraculous.

So Henke delved into the world 100 m records - and what he discovered left him stunned. The world record for athletes with the same disability as his son - both legs amputated below the knee - was 12,22 seconds. It meant Oscar was bettering the world record every lime he did the dash on the track at Pretoria Boys High.

When Henke told Oscar this he replied dryly: "Really, Dad? Gee. the world record is slow, hey?"

Such modesty is typical of the disabled athlete who, running on carbon-fibre artificial legs, officially broke the T43 category (double leg amputee) record in both the 100 m (12.09 seconds) and 200 m (23.64 seconds) while competing in the

Enoeovor Games in America in June.

Now he's in Athens to compete in the Paralympics 100 m and 200 m races in the T44 category (single leg amputees).

The Paralympics don't include the T43 category as there are too few double amputees to justify it, officials say.

But it doesn't bother the teenage Amakrokokroko star -- he's going for gold in the 200 m and gold, silver or bronze in the 100 m.

Oscar prefers the track to the schoolroom, he told YOU. PHOTO: ER Lombard Oscar prefers the track to the schoolroom, he told YOU. PHOTO: ER Lombard

OSCAR was born without fibulae (calf bones), a congenital deficiency known as fibular hemlmella.

Henke and his late wife Sheila (she died two years ago of liver and kidney failure) took their baby to several orthopaedic surgeons and were given the option of reconstructive surgery over several years or double amputation.

It was a heartrending choice. Even reconstructive surgery offered only a 10 percent chance that Oscar's ankles would carry his weight when he became an adult.

And the effects of multiple surgery were obvious in another child with a similar condition whom they were introduced to by orthopaedic surgeon Dr Gerry Versveld.

"The boy's walk was distinctly awkward and his friends teased him," Henke says. "In the end that little boy's feet were amputated."

With heavy hearts he and Sheila decided amputation was best for Oscar. At only 11 months old, their son lost both legs below the knee and was fitted with prosthetic limbs.

He learnt to walk on them and soon was as active as older brother Carl, mischievously using them as props to play tricks on other kids.

Carl found his brother's legs useful too: he'd often use them as brakes on his go-kart.

Young Oscar (right) with his brother Carl. PHOTO: Supplied Young Oscar (right) with his brother Carl. PHOTO: Supplied

"I couldn't figure out why Oscar's little shoes were so worn . Then it clicked: he was the brakes! " Henke says with a laugh. "Oscar was a tiger  -- he still is!"

There was no stopping young Oscar as he grew up. His prosthetic legs were like his own -- with the added advantage of not feeling pain below the knees. Sport was his passion and he didn't let artificial limbs deter him.

Amazingly, he played rugby too performing just as well as the rest of the team at Constantia Kloof Primary in Johannesburg, which he attended until he was 13.

When the family moved to Pretoria's Menlopark and he became a weekly boarder at Pretoria Boys High he developed a passion for water polo.

"I also like golf," he enthuses. "Beside sport I enjoy drawing and painting."

Last year he tried long-distance running but his legs "broke", he says with a wry smile. "I'd had them for too long and they'd got soft."

Oscar was given a stronger pair of prosthetic legs late last year and by the beginning of 2004 he was raring to go. He decided to try sprinting and was soon runn ing away from competitors.

By the time he broke the world record in June his life really was in the fast lane. His success has strengthened his never-say-die attitude to life. He's a typical well-spoken private schoolboy with a group of close friends and a few "chick friends" he goes clubbing with in Johannesburg's northern suburbs at weekends.

"I prefer Joburg." he says . "Most of the boarders at Pretoria Boys are from there and I grew up there so I suppose that's why."

Routine activities pose no problem for a teenager who can get round a 100 m track in just over 11 seconds.

He's obtained a learner driver's licence and dr ives Carl's Citi Golf when he can twist his brother's arm.

Does he have a girlfriend? "No," Oscar says chuckling shyly. "Don't have time for a girlfriend ."

He's put so much effort into athletics since June he's had to skip chunks of the school year. He spent a lew weeks in America at a training camp and competing in races. Now with his trip to Athens in search of gold he'll have missed more than two months of schooling by the end of the year.

But he isn't too bothered . "My grades aren't great but they'r e consistent." he says . "And my teachers and friends help me with the stuff I've missed."

Ask Oscar whether he'd rather be in class or on the track and you'll get an instant answer. "On the track." he says , "without a doubt. "

Henke grins. "I'm so proud of him," he says.

Oscar as a little boy. PHOTO: Supplied Oscar as a little boy. PHOTO: Supplied

OSCAR'S best unofficial time for the 100 m now stands at an impressive 11,4 seconds and 22,6 seconds for the 200 m.

World records for the races he'll be running are both held by Americans - 11,02 seconds for the 100 m and 22,69 seconds for the 200 m.

"I'm go ing to do my best and then I'm going to have some fun with my dad in Athens," he says . The remark reflects the healthy

balance he cultivates in his life . Further into the future he wan ts to study business management and eventually go into the restaurant business.

Significantly the man who made Oscar's athletic prowess possible in the first place is also in Athens for the Paralympic Games.

Dr Gerry Versveld will be next to Henke as he cheers Oscar on, hoping for another victory by the boy he operated on all those years ago.

*This story was published in YOU in 2004.

Read more:

Oscar sentenced to SIX years behind bars

Oscar: ‘Reeva wouldn’t want me to spend my life behind bars’

Tears in court as Oscar takes off his prosthetic legs and stands on his stumps before judge

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