JOHANNESBURG— Oscar Pistorius returned to light training and was “overcome with emotion” as he pulled on his carbon fiber blades for a session at his usual practice facility on Thursday, his agent told The Associated Press.
Agent Peet van Zyl said on Friday he was contacted about a week ago by Pistorius, who expressed a desire to return to a regular track routine for the first time since the Feb. 14 shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
“I think it’s huge for him,” said Van Zyl, who went with Pistorius to the University of Pretoria for the session. “He (Pistorius) was overcome with emotion when he put on his blades.”
Pistorius described the experience as “bittersweet” to Van Zyl after the track session, the agent said, who also described Pistorius’ first formal session in around five months as “really emotional.”
Van Zyl said there were still no plans for Pistorius to run competitively and his return to the track involved “light stuff” that would help give Pistorius’ life a routine as he awaits a murder trial for the killing of Steenkamp. Van Zyl went to the track with Pistorius while his regular coach, Ampie Louw, is away on holiday.
In television footage of the session released by Pistorius’ family, the double-amputee Olympian is seen in a blue hooded sports top pulling on his blades while sitting on a chair on a sunbathed track. A bearded Pistorius does some light jogging in his blades, and then wipes his face with both hands as he walks off track.
“The actual word he used to me was bittersweet,” Van Zyl said of Pistorius’ training. “He can’t be happy because of what’s happened.”
Pistorius’ next court appearance is on Aug. 19, when prosecutors may indict him and a date could be set for the start of his murder trial, possibly in September or October. Pistorius denies murder in Steenkamp’s killing, saying he shot her accidentally in the pre-dawn hours of Valentine’s Day because he thought she was an intruder in his bathroom.
The 26-year-old Pistorius faces a life sentence with a minimum of 25 years in prison if he is convicted of premeditated murder.
In a statement on Pistorius’ website, his family confirmed he decided to resume running on track for a few hours a week for his own mental process.
It was “not aimed at preparing for competition,” they said.
Pistorius has said he will not run competitively for the rest of 2013 while he faces a likely lengthy trial, but will run regularly on the track while his court case continues.
“His focus at this time remains entirely on the court case,” the family said in the statement. “His family and those close to him have encouraged him to spend a few hours a week on the track to assist him in finding the necessary mental and emotional equilibrium to process his trauma and prepare for the trial.”
Pistorius has previously been seen just once on an athletics track since Steenkamp’ s death.
A March sighting at the University of Pretoria spurred speculation that he was back in training, which was denied by his family at the time, who described him then as being in “an extremely traumatized state” and not willing to contemplate training. Pistorius was photographed by a schoolgirl on a cellphone while he was walking on the same track. His family and Van Zyl said he went there only to show some Australian athletes where he usually trained. He did some light jogging, they said, but did not properly train.
He also went without the knowledge of Van Zyl or coach Louw.
Pistorius’ family has talked of the multiple Paralympic champion’s mental struggle to resume running, having not competed since he retained his 400 meters title at the London Paralympics last September.
They said in April that Pistorius had been out running on isolated occasions, “but each time has been very difficult and he has struggled immensely with the decision to even leave the house.”
Van Zyl said Pistorius would probably train three or four times a week, but there was no pressure on him if he chose not to do a session.
“It’s just to get him running again,” Van Zyl said.