Paralympics aims to shine without star
By Rob Harris ,APLONDON -- As Oscar Pistorius offered his first defense against a murder charge, the head of the Paralympics was trying to reassure members on Tuesday that the movement has a strong future even without its star athlete.
February 21, 2013, 12:04 am TWN
International Paralympic Committee President Philip Craven told The Associated Press he has been in a state of “shock and disbelief” since Pistorius was arrested Thursday for shooting his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
Having been central to plans to maintain the momentum from the record-breaking Paralympics last year, Pistorius has now been forced to pull out of all future races.
The South African helped to generate unprecedented interest in disability sport by becoming the first double amputee sprinter to compete at the Olympics. Now Craven is acting quickly to ensure the Paralympics' progress is not damaged by the fallout from Pistorius' high-profile case.
“We've got so many stars coming through that this will not be an issue,” Craven said.
“Even since this tragedy happened, it's still been 'London, London, London' and what happened there — a unique moment in times that still continues in the hearts and minds of people.”
And in a letter to IPC members on Tuesday, Craven sought to shift attention from the “difficult and traumatic day” regarding Pistorius to remind how the London Paralympics succeeded in creating “a whole host of young world-class, medal-winning athletes.”
Craven pointed to British sprinter Jonnie Peacock, who deposed Pistorius as 100-meter champion at the Paralympics, and Alan Oliveira, who took the 200 title in front of an 80,000-strong crowd in the London Olympic Stadium.
“It's upon their shoulders that the Paralympic movement will be moving forward and it's still continuing to be the most exciting times after London,” Craven said in a telephone interview from the IPC winter sports championships in Spain.
Craven has experienced a “roller coaster of emotion” since being awoken early Thursday with the news that Pistorius had shot his girlfriend dead. The athlete claimed on Tuesday at a bail hearing that the incident was an accident — rather than premeditated murder — after believing she was a robber.