At the time of shooting his girlfriend, Oscar Pistorius was a global icon. He was due to earn up to R30 million a year from corporate sponsorships and other deals.
He was ready to announce his retirement from athletics by 2017, after the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. He had met the love of his life, Reeva Steenkamp, and was set to take her with him when he competed in Manchester and Brazil. They were due to leave for Brazil in March last year.
This is according to the athlete’s sports manager, Peet van Zyl, the third defence witness to take the stand in the North Gauteng High Court to testify in the murder trial.
Van Zyl was called to give character evidence on Pistorius, whom he had represented since 2006.
The 2012 London Olympics and Paralympic Games were only about two people – Usain Bolt and Oscar Pistorius, Van Zyl said.
“His financial opportunities increased significantly after this. Corporate companies wanted to be associated with him,” he testified. “He was due to earn five to six times more than before.” During his bail application last year, Pistorius said he earned about R5m a year.
Van Zyl said Pistorius and Steen-kamp had a loving and caring relationship and called each other pet names.
Pistorius wanted her to accompany him to Brazil and Manchester to see what his world was like and the pressure he had to deal with. He wanted her to see why he could not always accompany her to events, that he needed his sleep and had to stick to a strict diet and could not always go to restaurants. Steenkamp was very excited at the prospect of accompanying him. He also planned on surprising her by taking her to an Andrea Bocelli concert in Tuscany, Italy, Van Zyl said.
Pistorius was “vigilant” at times and sometimes “drove quite fast”, Van Zyl said. Once when they drove to the airport, he told Pistorius there was no need to rush, but the athlete said he wanted to ensure they were safe and not being followed.
Pistorius would also park in an easily accessible parking bay with good lighting, and at restaurants sat where he could watch the entrance.
Van Zyl said once in New York, Pistorius grabbed his arm when there was a loud banging noise and when he visited the “Blade Runner” at his home, he would ask his housekeeper whether the door was locked and where the dogs were. He also used to keep his hotel room door locked while inside, when they were abroad, as well as secure the latch.
Van Zyl said he only saw Pistorius lose his temper twice, but this was justified both times.
The first time was when a camera was pushed into the athlete’s face in Barcelona and he was called “a cheat” because he wanted to compete with able-bodied athletes.
A second time was when Pistorius was asked during a BBC interview whether he did not think he was an embarrassment for his country for trying to compete against able-bodied athletes.
Prosecutor Gerrie Nel said Van Zyl had forgotten to talk about the 2012 Paralympics when Pistorius caused a scene after accusing the athlete, who beat him in the 200m sprint, of cheating because he had longer blades. Van Zyl conceded Pistorius did lose his temper, but said the matter had a long prelude.
Nel also questioned Van Zyl about an incident when another Olympic athlete insisted during the Games on switching rooms as he could no longer handle sharing a room with Pistorius. That athlete said Pistorius had angry confrontations on his phone with people and he could not take it any more.
Van Zyl said he heard about it but he did not deem it important.
Asked whether he knew Pistorius always carried a gun with him, Van Zyl said he saw the gun for the first time in November 2012 when Pistorius came to his home. “He told me he feared for his own safety.”
Nel said Pistorius’s reasons for wanting to take Steenkamp abroad was to show her the pressure he was under.