My meeting with Oscar Pistorius-the ‘Blade Runner’
By David Smethurst
Special to ASSIST News Service
LONDON (ANS) – Now that the 2012 London Olympics and Paralympics are finally over, I wanted to share with you some of the highlights of my time in London during these two wonderful events, especially while covering the Paralympics.
Reverend Dr. David Smethurst with South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius
One great moment for me was a meeting I had with Oscar Pistorius, the “blade runner”, who is no doubt one of the greatest Paralympians of all time, but as I dsicovered, he is a very humble man.
When I met him in the South African team office at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Oscar greeted me respectfully and asked how I was. Now, I am a nobody when it comes to serving these high profile athletes, but it is very touching when a great person stops and talks personally and graciously allow one to be in a photo with him.
I said to Oscar, “God bless you with your events” (in Afrikaans), to which he replied, “Thank you sir. I really appreciate that.” He is amazingly honest and not afraid of standing up for righteousness, and he doesn’t shy away from confrontation. I predict that he’s going to be an important figure in Sports Politics and Management in time to come.
A day later I met Arnu Fourie a very quiet and respectful young man – also a “blade runner” — who seemed to stand in Oscar’s shadow. But no more is he in the shadows, after his bronze medal in the 100 meters against Jonnie Peacock of Great Britain who won the gold. It was very moved seeing Oscar Pistorius, who came fourth, be the first to congratulate Jonnie on his win, and Arnu on his bronze medal.
A great favorite
Another of my favorite Paralympic heroes is Natalie du Toit from South Africa whose career I’ve watch for many years. In 1998 as a 14 year old she excelled at the Commonwealth Games in Malaysia. At 16 riding her motor scooter to school a car hit her causing her to lose her left leg. She courageously bounced back and at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester she won the Award of the Games for a race she came last in – the 800 meters freestyle for able bodied athletes. She was the first disabled athlete to qualify for an open event. Wow.
In 2006 she swam in open events at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games and excelled. In the 2008 Natalie swam at the Beijing Olympics & Paralympics and won numerous medals. Now in 2012 in London she has won not only 13 gold medals in her career but also the hearts of so many sports followers.
He limped into the South African office in the Paralympic Village and tookI met Achmat Hassiem seemingly by accident as the athletes were arriving in the Paralympic Village. I heard that he lost the lower part of his right leg in a shark attack off one of the Cape Town beaches. A 4.5 meter great white was swimming directly at his brother. Achmat swam deliberately between his brother and the shark, and the shark took his leg off. It was Natalie du Toit who encouraged Hassiem to get back into the water. Before long, he started breaking his country’s Paralympic records.
off his artificial leg revealing a very swollen stump caused by an injury. There
were tears of agony in his eyes and I felt so sorry for him. I knelt next to him
and asked, “May I pray for you?”and he replied,” I would like that very much.”
I prayed for his wellbeing and for the healing of his leg. He then said, “Thank you. Thank you so much.” When I saw him two days later I asked him how his leg was, to which he replied, “My leg is doing great. Thank you so much once again.” He won bronze in the 100 meters butterfly.
As volunteers, the group I was with, were asked to drive athletes and managers to a press conference for the South African team at the Copthorne Tara Hotel in Kensington Gardens, London. The traffic at this time of the day was horrific but the three Paralympic cars delivered the SA team there safely. We were privileged to attend the conference and I was impressed at the way the managers and athletes presented themselves. They shone with victory and shared their experiences, adversities and victories with great confidence. Part of the celebration was to honor Nelson Mandela’s 94th birthday.
Early in the morning, after the Opening Ceremony, I was asked to drive Sandra Khumalo, the South African rower, her coach Marco, and the physiotherapist, Grechne, right across London to Eton Dorney Rowing Venue near Windsor. It was great speaking Zulu to Sandra who came from the city of Durban where I was born and grew up. What an experience that was with these joyful athletes excited about competing in the first events if the Paralympic Games. She won a silver medal.
In all these situations I have been able to share the Gospel and uplift Jesus.
One day, I was out shopping for Paralympic requirements in a 99p shop in London, when I noticed David Taylor, a swimmer from Barbados, as well as his team colleagues. I greeted him and said that he had the name of the great King David in the Bible and that his name means “beloved of God”. He knew that and was doing his best to live for his King, Jesus. The presence of the Lord simply shone from him.
You may remember that during the Olympics, I met a man named Daniel, from Tel Aviv, who worked in the management of a hotel. We got talking about what I do in Israel to help the Russian and Ethiopian Jews. He was fascinated and asked why I did “this stuff”. That opened a huge door to minister Yeshua to him. We met again at the Paralympics and shared more about my life’s journey with the Messiah.
On one of my missions is to minister to the Latvia military, and while in London I met a Pastor Peteris Tervits from the Ventspils Baptist Church. After ministering in that church, I guided him on how he could become a chaplain at the Olympics & Paralympics. On the evening of the Opening Ceremony, Peter introduced me to the Latvian Ambassador Edvars. He was amazed that I had been ministering in Latvia for 21 years and supported so many orphans there. It was a great opportunity to share the gospel with him.
Watching the Paralympic events on TV in the UK it’s been a joy to see Ade Adepitan, a wheelchair basketballer from three Paralympics, hosting the TV presentation. I met Ade at the Sydney Paralympics in 2000. Ade came to our training for the Games to share the needs of a Paralympian and how to minister to them. He just shines with the presence of the Lord.
Now it is all over, but what memories I have, and will never forget, as I met so many of these great people who have overcome so much and yet never once complained about their situation.