News of Oscar Pistorius arrest leaves many in disbelief
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Out in the small Italian town of Gemona, as in many places around the world, the arrest of Oscar Pistorius on murder charges was hard to believe.
It was on a new track in the northeastern corner of Italy that the double-amputee from South Africa trained last year for his Olympic debut, running lap after lap on his Cheetah Flex-Foot blades in preparation for his trip to the world's biggest sporting event.
On Thursday, shortly after Pistorius was charged in South Africa with the shooting death of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp, the mayor of Gemona said it was tough to take.
"The news shocked not only me personally but also the whole of Gemona and the region. It's come as a huge shock to everyone who knew him,'' Mayor Paolo Urbani said. "I have to say Oscar was an exceptional testimonial for our project, helping the city take forward its sporting plans. He's a delightful person, not only as a sportsman but also how he is as a human being. The news is still very fragmentary and we're waiting to hear more, to find out exactly what happened.''
Pistorius fought for years to be able to compete against able-bodied athletes after many said his carbon-fiber blades gave him an unfair advantage. He finally won his case in 2008, but failed to run the qualifying time for the Beijing Olympics.
He did, however, make South Africa's team for last year's London Olympics, reaching the semifinals in the 400 meters and then running for South Africa's 4x400 relay team in the final.
Nick Symmonds, an American athlete who finished fifth in the 800 meters in London, is friendly with Pistorius. He learned the news when he woke up at 6 a.m. and turned on the TV.
"I was just shocked like everybody else,'' he said. "We're going to have to let the courts down in South Africa sort out the facts.''