By CHRIS LEHOURITES, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — Photographs of Oscar Pistorius, some with a gray hood covering his head and others with him running in the Olympic Stadium in London, were splashed across newspaper front pages around the world Friday.
The South African double-amputee runner, the "Blade Runner" who inspired many by competing against able-bodied athletes at the London Games, has been charged with murdering his girlfriend. Pistorius' family and his management company issued a statement Friday disputing the charge "in the strongest terms."
"Pistorius: From Angel to Monster," headlined Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport, the paper that had been one of Pistorius' biggest supporters in his bid to run in the Olympics.
Gianni Merlo, a Gazzetta journalist who helped Pistorius write his autobiography, said the runner's "other side" was unknown to him.
"How can Oscar, the friend who had displayed to me such joy to live, have become a killer? That's the question which is tormenting me," Merlo wrote.
In England, pictures of Reeva Steenkamp, the model who police say was shot and killed early Thursday morning at Pistorius' home in Pretoria, also made front pages.
"3 shots. Screams. Silence. 3 more shots," wrote The Sun on its front page, followed by a sub-headline reading, "Blade Runner Pistorius 'Murders Lover.'"
The Independent pictured a close-up of a hooded Pistorius on its front page with the headline, "The Dark Side of Oscar Pistorius."
Several papers went along that theme, reporting that Pistorius was a gun-lover who was even spooked by his own washing machine.
"Girls, guns and the dark side of the Blade Runner," headlined the Daily Mail on the front page beside a picture of Pistorius and Steenkamp. Inside, the paper ran the headline "Screams, shouts ... then 4 shots."
Spanish daily El Pais ran the headline "World icon in hell," while Belgian daily Le Soir went with "The bloodied destiny of Oscar Pistorius."
Germany's biggest selling newspaper, Bild, headlined "Olympic hero shoots girlfriend dead" on the front page. Berlin tabloid BZ ran with "Valentine's Day tragedy or murder drama? Wonder sprinter shoots girlfriend dead."
In Japan, the Asahi ran "Amputee runner arrested. Gunned-down body found at Mr. Pistorius' home — Mistook girlfriend as robber?"
Pistorius became a global sensation last year when he ran in the 400 meters and 4x400 relay at the London Olympics.
Despite losing the lower part of his legs when he was a baby, the South African became one of the fastest runners in the world, winning several Paralympic titles before finally reaching his goal of competing at the Olympics.
Although he didn't win an Olympic medal in London, his green-and-yellow South African track uniform and his carbon-fiber blades became an enduring image of the games.
On Tuesday, still basking in the glow of his Olympic achievement, Pistorius tweeted a photo from London of himself with eventual 400-meter gold medalist Kirani James, who asked for Pistorius' bib as a souvenir after running in the same semifinal heat.
Not every paper went big on the Pistorius shooting story, however.
French sports daily L'Equipe had only a small tease on its front page with the headline, "Oscar Pistorius, hero and murderer."
The full story, on Page 10, was under the headline, "The Fall of an Icon."
Spanish newspaper ABC took a different turn, referencing American sporting goods company Nike in one of its headlines.
"The curse of NIKE: Pistorius, the last in a line of athletes sponsored by the American brand to be tainted by scandal," the paper wrote while mentioning Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, Marion Jones and Kobe Bryant.
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