Oscar Pistorius may be a convicted murderer, but some say they still look up to the South African track and field trailblazer.
Pistorius, a South African double-amputee sprinter popularly known as the Blade Runner, was sentenced Wednesday to six years in prison for the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. As a news article on BBC.com reminds us,
Pistorius, 29, shot Reeva Steenkamp four times through a locked toilet door in February 2013.
He admitted shooting her, but said he had mistaken Ms. Steenkamp for an intruder and acted out of fear.
The shooting and subsequent trial destroyed the Paralympic gold medalist's image as an inspiration for many. But not, it turns out, for everyone.
"I know he murdered someone," says James Conway, 42. "But hey—everyone makes mistakes."
Conway, an enthusiastic gun collector who lost both of his legs in an auto accident and struggles to manage his anger, says that even today he finds a lot to like about Pistorius.
"Guys like me, we don't have a whole lot of role models," says Conway. "To see someone like [Pistorius] out there, on the world stage, well, it's a pretty cool thing."
Tommy DeVito, 39, knows how Conway feels. He too is a double amputee, thanks to an infection he suffered in childhood, has dealt with chronic anger management issues for most of his adult life, and keeps a loaded handgun in his nightstand.
"Just in case," he says.
"I don't run track or anything, like Oscar does, or did," says DeVito. "But I know what it feels like to have lost both legs. And to have an incredibly short fuse. And to own a handgun."
"Lord knows," he says, "over the years I've shot a thing or two through locked doors that I instantly regretted."
Pistorius, who has already served a year in jail, will be eligible for parole halfway through his term. He is not expected to appeal his sentence, which was widely criticized as being too light. But, again, not by everyone.
"I actually think it's pretty harsh," says Conway. "Six years? For a mistake? Doesn't seem right to me. In fact, it makes me angry."
"Really, really angry."