By Mike Finch
Oscar Pistorius was almost untouchable. A man, born disabled, who had overcome the odds to take on the world, and the able-bodied, with no excuses and plenty of bravado. His detractors were dismissed and when criticism was leveled he fought back, aggressively asserting his opinion behind the scenes.
To the wider world, nothing could touch Oscar. He was a true celebrity: Good looking, charming, charismatic and with a thirst for the high life that put him into the stratosphere beyond just sporting fame. To round it all off, he dated models, lived in luxury mansions and looked like a rock star on the red carpet.
To criticize him was to deny his story. How could someone question his drive and ambition? The guy was born without legs for goodness sake, and he was taking on the world, promising to break world records held by able bodied athletes.
He represented what all of us aspire to: A deep-rooted self-belief that anything is possible.
But behind the scenes, it wasn't always pretty.
During the build-up to the Olympic Games in 2012, reknowned sports scientist Dr. Ross Tucker questioned the fairness of Pistorius's prosthetic blades, which Ross claimed clearly aided the athlete.
Now Tucker is a scientist. He is not swayed by emotional sentiment and made it clear that his admiration for Pistorius was beyond doubt. Yet, when we published Tucker's column, Pistorius reacted with a direct message to our online editor: "If you want to give Ross Tucker a platform to voice his opinion, don't be surprised when I don't want to do articles with this publication."
To be honest, we should have made his comment to us public. But we didn't. Criticizing Oscar was risky and we wished him well while offering our support. We never heard from him again.
Just a few weeks later he was beaten in the 200m T44 event by Brazilian Alan Oliveira and angrily disputed that Oliveira's prosthetic limbs were too long and gained him an unfair advantage on TV. He later apologized for the outburst.
There was an edge to Pistorius. Maybe it was because his parents were divorced when he was young, that his mother died when he was 15 or that he has spent a life trying to prove himself against all the odds.
I remember meeting him in 2007, when he first began to race against able bodied runners. He came across supremely confident, arrogant to a point, but charming and affable at the same time -- the kind of guy you'd think about having a beer with because there's a laddish quality to his personality.
I walked away from that meeting believing that it had to take a special kind of person to achieve what he had achieved. And despite everything that has happened in the last few days, I still do.
Mike Finch is editor of Runner's World South Africa.