February 15, 2013 10:17:49 AM
LONDON -- The figure of Oscar Pistorius racing around the Olympic track with his carbon-fiber blades whipping through the air was one of the enduring images of the London Games.
That was only six months ago, when the double-amputee from South Africa emerged as an example of what a person can achieve in the face of adversity.
He didn't win a medal, but the "Blade Runner" reveled in in his Olympic moment and was cheered throughout the world for his achievement. On Tuesday, still basking in the glow, Pistorius tweeted a photo from London of himself with eventual 400-meter gold medalist Kirani James, who asked for Pistorius' bib as a souvenir after running in the same semifinal heat.
"Still on(e) of my fondest memories of the Olympics.. Kirani and I exchanging (numbers)," wrote Pistorius, who was eliminated in that semifinal race.
Two days after that tweet, Pistorius was charged with the murder of his girlfriend after model Reeva Steenkamp was shot inside his home in South Africa.
The images from last August and Thursday could hardly be more contrasting -- a sporting hero at the peak of career and a criminal suspect hiding in his hooded sweatshirt -- leaving the world to wonder how Pistorius' life could have come to this.
Pistorius was born without fibula bones due to a congenital defect, and had his legs amputated at 11 months. But his condition never stopped him from playing sports with prosthetics, and he took to rugby in high school. It was after injuring his knee on the pitch that he first took to the track. And very quickly he became one of the best.
The carbon-fiber blades that he uses to run led to years of controversy. By the time he had already won a gold medal at the 2004 Paralympics, Pistorius was banned from competing against able-bodied peers because many argued that his blades gave him an unfair advantage.
In 2008, however, the Court of Arbitration for Sport cleared him to compete against the fastest in the world.
It was the Olympics that he wanted, but he failed to run the qualifying time for the 2008 Beijing Games. Instead, he won the 100, 200 and 400 at the Paralympics in China as he was quickly becoming a star around the world.
In his life off the track, Pistorius called himself a "speed freak." He told The Associated Press on several occasions about his love of riding powerful motorcycles, but gave up that hobby in 2009 after he injured his head in a boat accident.
"There was a lot of refocus after that. I had this motorboat accident and I was in hospital for two weeks and spent the next four weeks at home," Pistorius told the AP. "I just realized that I need to make some changes and some of them need to be with my lifestyle. I was messing around a lot with motorbikes and just playing around and taking unnecessary risks."