Oscar Pistorius, the Risk Taker

This week, Oscar Pistorius was accused of premeditated murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp by South Africa prosecutors. It’s a sad story all around.

I went back and read this piece in New York Times Magazine, profiling the Blade Runner. It was published in January 2012, as Oscar was training for the 2012 London Olympics. Michael Sokolove, who spent time with Oscar Pistorius, exposed Oscar’s risk-friendly nature:

Hanging out with Pistorius can be a great deal of fun. You also quickly understand that he is more than a little crazy. I asked him about the tattoo on his left shoulder, a Bible verse from Corinthians that begins, “I do not run like a man running aimlessly.” He said he got it on a visit to New York. He was staying at a hotel in SoHo, and couldn’t sleep, so he took the subway uptown and just walked around. “I went into an all-night tattoo parlor,” he said. “Some Puerto Rican guy did it. It took from 2 a.m. to about 8:30. I think he was falling asleep after a while, which is why it’s a little squiggly at the bottom. But I like it that way. To me, it makes it look more authentic.”

In 2008, Pistorius crashed his boat into a submerged pier on a river south of Johannesburg. His face and body hit the steering wheel, and he broke two ribs, his jaw and an eye socket. Doctors had to sew 172 stitches in his face. More recently, while riding his dirt bike through tall grass, he clipped a fence and turned around to see one of his prosthetic legs swinging from a section of barbed wire, an unwelcome sight, for sure, but less dire than if it had been a biological leg. It was one of the only times that it occurred to him that having prosthetic lower limbs may confer some advantage.

The people around Pistorius worry about his risk-taking, but there’s only so much they can do. His manager, Peet van Zyl, shrugged when I asked him about it. “It’s the nature of the man,” he said. “At least we did get the motorbike away from him.”

There’s also this:

He bought two African white tigers and boarded them at a game reserve, then sold them to a zoo in Canada when they grew to about 400 pounds and he was no longer comfortable visiting with them. “They were really beautiful, but they started to get a little big for me,” he explained.

And finally, an interaction between the author and Pistorius on guns:

I asked what kind of gun he owned, which he seemed to take as an indication of my broader interest in firearms. I had to tell him I didn’t own any. “But you’ve shot one, right?” Actually, I hadn’t. Suddenly, I felt like one of those characters in a movie who must be schooled on how to be more manly.

“We should go to the range,” he said. He fetched his 9-millimeter handgun and two boxes of ammunition. We got back in the car and drove to a nearby firing range, where he instructed me on proper technique. Pistorius was a good coach. A couple of my shots got close to the bull’s-eye, which delighted him. “Maybe you should do this more,” he said. “If you practiced, I think you could be pretty deadly.” I asked him how often he came to the range. “Just sometimes when I can’t sleep,” he said.

Worth reading in entirety.

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