Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius and the model lover who battled to empower women

While Oscar Pistorius was a hero for millions, the model girlfriend he is accused of killing was a campaigner who battled to empower women

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 February, 2013, 5:24am

She was a model, a law school graduate and an entrepreneur committed to empowering women. He was one of the world's most recognisable sportsmen and an inspirational figure around the world.

Together Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius formed South Africa's equivalent of Posh and Becks.

But the power couple's relationship ended in tragedy on Valentine's Day yesterday when Pistorius was charged with shooting dead his girlfriend at his home in Pretoria.

Steenkamp had become a celebrity in her own right as one of FHM magazine's 100 Sexiest Women in the World for two years running. She was also the South African face of Avon cosmetics.

But she was "continuously breaking the model stereotype", said publicist Sarit Tomlinson.

Steenkamp was "an angelic soul" and at the same time "a very inspiring individual, very passionate about speaking about women and empowerment."

Yesterday morning, Steenkamp had been scheduled to give a motivational speech to school students in Johannesburg. She tweeted messages expressing her excitement about Valentine's Day. "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow?" she wrote. "It should be a day of love for everyone."

Her last tweet was to accept a friend's invitation to celebrate the day with chocolate cupcakes topped with red hearts.

In the social pages of last weekend's Sunday Independent she described Pistorius as having "impeccable" taste, adding: "His gifts are always thoughtful."

Even before Pistorius became the first double-amputee to compete at both the Olympics and Paralympics last year, the 26-year-old was already a household name after he made history by becoming the first amputee to run at the World Championships in 2011. He took silver with South Africa's 4x400m sprint team.

The Johannesburg-born runner had both legs amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old after being born without lower leg bones. But he played sports while growing up, switching to running after fracturing a knee playing rugby.

"You're not disabled by your disabilities but abled by your abilities," he told Athlete magazine in a 2011 interview.

His 2011 appearance came after a high-profile controversy about whether he was even eligible to compete against able-bodied athletes, with some arguing his custom-built carbon-fibre running blades gave him an unfair advantage.

You're not disabled by your disabilities but abled by your abilities

He successfully appealed against an International Association of Athletics Federations ban against him competing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, although he failed to qualify.

It was at the Beijing Paralympics where Pistorius starred, winning all three main sprint events, the 100m, 200m and 400m.

Though he failed to retain all three of his titles in London last year, he took gold with his South African team-mates in the 4x100m relay and stormed to victory in the individual 400m.

Associated Press, Reuters