Oscar is ‘finished in sport’
Cape Town - Oscar Pistorius’s sentencing and conviction for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp is “the end of his journey” in world athletics, says Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula.
In an exclusive interview with the Cape Argus on Wednesday, Mbalula said he believed that the “golden boy” had reached the end of his career.
“(Oscar’s sentencing) has been a very sad moment for us in sport, in the sense that he was the epitome of wisdom, skill and triumph over adversity.
“Doors were beginning to open for us globally because of this young man. The last national anthem played at the London Paralympics was that of South Africa’s because Oscar took the podium after winning the event’s final race.
“In the world of athletics, Oscar was number two, second only to Usain Bolt, in terms of popularity.
“I do not think Oscar will be able to come back in terms of athletics.
“For me, (Pistorius’s conviction and sentence) was the end of the road of his journey. It is unfortunate that it had to end in this manner, but the courts have spoken and we will respect their decision.”
The 27-year-old Paralympic star began his five-year prison sentence at the Kgosi Mampuru II correctional facility in Pretoria on Wednesday. Judge Thokozile Masipa also sentenced the athlete to an additional three years in prison, suspended for five years, for the second count of a firearm contravention.
Recalling the morning of the fatal shooting, Mbalula said he had been woken by a telephone call from Jacaranda FM at about 5am.
“They said ‘what is your comment because Pistorius, your star athlete, has shot his girlfriend thinking she was an intruder?’”
Mbalula said he answered: “Don’t quote me but it could be that it was an intruder.”
Mbalula said Pistorius’s deeds had not only hurt Steenkamp’s family and friends, but many people - especially young people - who looked up to him as a role model.
In his glory days, the Paralympian was the face of many high-end brand campaigns including the Nike “I am the bullet in the chamber” ad and as the face of fashion house Thierry Mugler’s men fragrance.
The campaigns were withdrawn soon after the shooting.
Mbalula admits he was a big supporter of the “golden boy” and used his pulling power for several sports campaigns.
He said that Pistorius would have been the perfect ambassador for the Unite 4 Mandela campaign due to take place in Tshwane next month.
“One of the ambassadors of such a campaign would have been Pistorius to unite us as a nation… a white Afrikaner boy who triumphed over adversity. He made blade running fashionable.”
Mbalula said that Pistorius was so respected that during the Paralympics in London people sang along to the South African anthem as he walked up the podium to accept his medal.
“The courts have spoken and we respect the decisions of the court. I hear people saying that Pistorius will come back. To me that was the end of the road.”
Pistorius had testified that he had mistaken the 29-year-old model for a burglar hiding in his toilet at his Silverlakes home in Pretoria. Steenkamp was shot in the head, chest and arm in the early hours of Valentine’s Day last year.
Pistorius’s family said the athlete would not appeal against his sentence, but the State prosecuting authority was yet to decide whether it would appeal against the conviction for culpable homicide.
Pistorius’s appearance at the Olympics and Paralympics in London last year was one of sport’s defining narratives of an athlete triumphing over adversity.
He became the first disabled athlete to compete in the Olympic Games when he qualified for the men’s 400m semi-final.
Mbalula said that Pistorius’s rehabilitation should take its course.
“Pistorius must pay his dues to the nation and face correctional responsibilities.”
Asked whether he foresaw a future role for Pistorius in any capacity in South African sport, Mbalula said: “We will cross that road when we get there.”