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Oscar Pistorius was ‘global sports icon,’ manager says

Jul 1, 2014, 7:33 AM EDT

Oscar Pistorius AP

Oscar Pistorius became a “global sports icon” after the 2012 Olympics, his manager said at the athlete’s murder trial Tuesday.

“His profile was raised,” manager Peet van Zyl said of the first double amputee to run at the Olympics. “I think all media would agree with me that the London Olympic Games was about two people, and that was Mr. Usain Bolt and Mr. Oscar Pistorius.”

In February 2013, Van Zyl said Pistorius asked him if girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp could accompany him to overseas track meets.

“I want Ms. Steenkamp to see what my world is about, the pressure I am under, how I need to perform,” Van Zyl quoted Pistorius as saying.

One week later, Pistorius shot four times through a locked door in his Pretoria home bathroom, hitting and killing Steenkamp inside on Valentine’s Day 2013. Pistorius said he thought Steenkamp was an intruder.

He faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder. If found not guilty of premeditated murder, Pistorius could be convicted of culpable homicide, South Africa’s version of manslaughter for negligent killing.

Van Zyl said he and Pistorius met at the house on Feb. 7, 2013, when they mapped out his competitive schedule for the season, culminating with the World Championships in Moscow in August.

Pistorius wanted Steenkamp to come with him for races in Brazil on March 31, against Paralympic rival Alan Oliveira, and at the Manchester City Games in England on May 25.

Van Zyl, who has known the athlete since 2004, said Pistorius had never before requested his girlfriend accompany him.

Van Zyl also said Pistorius’ financial value increased by five or six times after London 2012 and that he planned to retire in 2017.

Van Zyl said he had twice seen Pistorius lose his temper, both times with media. In 2009, a crew in Barcelona stuck a camera in his face and called him a cheater. In 2012, a BBC radio journalist asked if Pistorius was an embarrassment to his country, Van Zyl said.

The manager said Pistorius and Steenkamp had a loving relationship and that he sent emails arranging Steenkamp’s travel with Pistorius up to the hours before he learned of Steenkamp’s death. Pistorius was reportedly emotional Tuesday during a court break after Van Zyl described his relationship with Steenkamp.

In cross-examining by the prosecution, Van Zyl was asked about articles written about Pistorius. In one, Pistorius said he shot at a firing range on some occasions when he couldn’t sleep. In another, Pistorius’ London Paralympic roommate said he was forced to move out of their room because “Oscar was constantly screaming in anger at people on the phone.”

Van Zyl said he never saw Pistorius treat somebody in “an aggressive or undignified way” and he did not discuss the firing range story with him, either.

“At that stage, I did not see it as anything negative,” Van Zyl said.

Pistorius’ trial is scheduled to resume at 3:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday.

Here’s NBC News’ full coverage of the trial.

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