In the run-up to Oscar Pistorius’s inspiring appearance in the London Olympics, New York Times writer Michael Sokolove spent time with the sprinter at his Pretoria, South Africa, home for a January 2012 story in the Times Magazine.
Pistorius, a double amputee and homeland hero known as the Blade Runner, has been charged with the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, early Thursday morning. At this point, we must note that Pistorius has been found guilty of nothing and that plenty of athletes own and use guns responsibly.
But Pistorius tells Sokolove of a scary incident that occurred at his home in the middle of the night and takes him to a shooting range.
We made it back to his house, which is built in a Mediterranean style inside a gated, hillside community. His three dogs greeted us. The house is expansive, with a dining room big enough to fit a table that seats 16. The bookshelves in his living room contain mostly biographies — Mandela, Marley, Dylan, Beckham, Salvador Dalí, Steve Jobs — as well an account of the Bernie Madoff scandal and numerous volumes on rugby and auto racing.
Pistorius lives in the house with a friend from high school, an engineer who moonlights as a mixed-martial-arts fighter. Pistorius had recently broken off a relationship with his longtime girlfriend, though another young woman was visiting when we got there. As he put together lunch for all of us — fruit smoothies, breaded chicken fillets he pulled from the refrigerator — he mentioned that a security alarm in the house had gone off the previous night, and he had grabbed his gun and tiptoed downstairs. (It turned out to be nothing.)
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.
Not long before the Times’s story appeared, Pistorius tweeted a photo of himself at a shooting range (via the Associated Press):
Spent the afternoon at the Tormezzo Italian Shooting range. Had a 96% headshot over 300m from 50shots! Bam! lockerz.com/s/160337437
— Oscar Pistorius (@OscarPistorius) November 28, 2011
Mike Wise: Blades or not, Pistorius should run