′The Paralympics is bigger than Pistorius′ | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 12.09.2014
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'The Paralympics is bigger than Pistorius'

The decision in the case of Oscar Pistorius undoubtedly casts a shadow on the Paralympics movement. DW speaks with Craig Spence from the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) about Pistorius' legacy.

What was your reaction when you first heard that Oscar Pistorius had been involved in the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, back in February 2013?

Our reaction then and now is one of shock and sorrow: shock that one of our leading Paralympians was involved in such an incident, and sorrow and sympathy for the family of Reeva Steenkamp, who is the tragic victim of this case. Oscar was someone we knew - someone we know - and for someone you know to be invovled in something like this is a huge shock.

What's been the effect on the Paralympics movement since the initial incident and the ongoing murder trial?

Once we got over the shock, we were really keen to differentiate between the day-to-day activites of the Paralympic movement and what was going on in Oscar's private life. What's going on in Oscar's private life is nothing really to do with the IPC. We've very much been business-as-usual and we've seen the Paralympics since London 2012 continue to thrive and be a huge success.

Craig Spence takes part in a press conference in Sochi

Craig Spence says that Pistorius was vital for the Paralympic movement before, but things are changing

Just how important was Oscar Pistorius for the Paralympic movement?

Oscar was vital for the Paralympic movement especially from Beijing 2008 through until London 2012. He inspired so many people to get involved in paralympic sport and sport in general. But, during the London Paralympics he wasn't the star of the show. There were many athletes that came through and continued the pioneering work that Oscar had started from the Beijing games.

Is there a feeling though that the "poster boy" of paralympic sport has let the team down? You invested a lot in getting his image out around the world.

Funnily enough, the IPC really didn't spend much time promoting Oscar Pistorius. The "Oscar brand" was strong enough. Our strategy for the last five years has always been to try to promote other athletes, because the Paralympic movement is bigger than one person. We've made a point of trying to raise the profile of other athletes.

It needs to be remembered that in London in 2012 Oscar did take part in the Olympics, which was terrific at raising the profile of the Paralympic movement. But, at the Paralympics, he only won one gold medal in the three races that he competed in and that shows that there are other athletes that can take the mantle from him.

Brazil's Alan Oliveira competes in London

Jonnie Peacock, Richard Browne and Brazil's Alan Oliveira (pictured) are some of the new stars at the Paralympics

Does the Paralympic movement need a new star at the moment? Maybe someone who, once again, can move across into the Olympics too?

We saw last year at the IPC Athletics World Championships that there are a whole host of stars now. Alan Oliveira, the man who beat Oscar Pistorius over 200 meters at London, for instance. He obliterated the 100 meters and 200 meters world records. In fact, his time over 200 meters was the fifth fastest from any Brazilian, able-bodied or Paralympian, ever. He's effectively the superstar at the moment and he's got a lot of good competitors who will push him all the way at Rio 2016. Actually, I don't think it's necessary that we have athletes who cross over to the Olympics anymore, because the talent at the Paralympics is now far stronger than ever before.

Craig Spence is the Director of Communications for the International Paralympic Committee, based in Bonn.

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