x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

For Oscar 'Blade Runner' Pistorius, fast is a state of being

In the latest instalment of Stars and Cars, Matt Majendie talks with Oscar Pistorius, aka The Blade Runner, on his love of all things fast.

As Oscar Pistorius is in training for London 2012. Though he cannot ride his bikes, he takes great pleasure in displaying them in his home. AP Photo
As Oscar Pistorius is in training for London 2012. Though he cannot ride his bikes, he takes great pleasure in displaying them in his home. AP Photo

Oscar Pistorius's three main passions in life are athletics, motorsport and boxing, in that order.

The first of that trio has made Pistorius, who was born without fibula in both legs and had them amputated below the knee before his first birthday, one of the most globally recognised athletes in the world.

The Blade Runner is a self-confessed speed freak who likes to go fast whether on his J-shaped Cheetah Flex Foot Legs or else at the controls of a motorbike or fast car.

It becomes apparent to any visitor to the 24-year-old's home that his first motoring love is two-wheeled machinery and there is one vehicle that is more cherished than the rest in his collection.

"I'm a massive Valentino Rossi fan," said Pistorius, "and I've actually got a motorbike of his. Yamaha very kindly gave me one of his MotoGP bikes and it's in pride of place at home under the stairs.

"It's an amazing piece of kit and I show it off to anyone who comes into my home. To be honest, you can't really miss it anyway."

Rossi is an idol of the Italian-speaking Pistorius and other Rossi paraphernalia is littered around his South African home, including signed shirts and photographs.

Pistorius, who is bidding to run against able-bodied athletes at next year's Olympics in London, describes himself as "loving everything to do with speed" and lays the blame for that obsession with his father.

"My dad raced in rallying in South Africa when we were growing up so I knew fast cars pretty much as long as I can remember as a kid," he said.

"Dad loves the four-wheel stuff and, when I was young, he got me into karting, and I loved that. But pretty quickly my first love - and in terms of motorsport it's still first and foremost - turned to motorbikes."

He competed on dirt bikes and in trials events initially before making a more recent superbike foray on track with a Yamaha R1, a gift from the Japanese manufacturer.

"Superbikes are just unbelievable," he said. "On a racetrack, you're looking at speeds of 240kph while you can take corners at quite an acute angle at 140 to 150kph. You can't but absolutely love riding something like that - it's impossible not to love it.

"But it's not just the bikes that are a love but fast cars as well. If it goes fast, I'm happy to drive it or ride it."

Pistorius insists there are parallels between his athletics and his petrol-headed passion. "Actually both are pretty therapeutic," he said. "If I'm running or I'm out on my bike or in a car, it really takes my mind off things. Take a bike for example, you're concentrating so much that you can't really have your mind on anything else."

As the South African bids to qualifying for London 2012, his motoring ambitions are temporarily on hold and have been since the end of last year.

"Riding motorbikes is obviously dangerous and I can't really afford to come off a bike however minor that fall might be," he said. "Even if I was to lose a week's worth of training it would be so, so costly.

"So going fast on roads or on track will have to wait. It's certainly something I want to get back to properly after 2012 but for now I'll just have to enjoy looking at my bikes and cars, and going slowly on them. It hurts to leave them alone, but it's a small sacrifice for now."

His attempts to keep his speeds to a minimum will not be helped by the cars in his garage. He drives a Volkswagen G6 GTi and Mercedes CL63 AMG, and also has a sapphire black Volvo C30 through a sponsor.

"The athletics comes first, no question, but motoring is the next best thing to what I do and what I love," he said. "Now I'm not riding very fast, I get my fixing by watching motorsport. I'm not much of a Formula One fan, but I live and breathe MotoGP and try to watch every single race I possibly can."