AT THE peak of his powers in the build-up to the 2012 Olympics, the Blade Runner unwittingly made a little girl cry.

Pistorius was racing for the last time before the London Games, at Lignano in Italy, not far from his training base in Gemona.

Lignano is a resort town on the Adriatic Sea where bicycles are a popular mode of transport. The athletics stadium is rustic, but the track is of high standard and each year it hosts an international sprint event.

In 2011, Pistorius had run his 45.07sec personal best there before going to the able-bodied World Championships, where he won the silver medal as a member of South Africa’s 4x400m relay team.

Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell was supposed to compete in Lignano in 2012, but he pulled out because of injury. Lolo Jones, the self-confessed virgin of hurdles, was there.

But Pistorius was the star. Running in lane three, he was introduced to the crowd last; the biggest applause was reserved for him.

The organisers loved him too, presenting him with a small plaque bearing the inscription, “We are your good luck charm.”

Pistorius finished second that night, and immediately afterwards he sat in the athletes’ enclosure, catching his breath and signing autographs for some people who were allowed into the limited-access zone.

I wonder if that boy still forgets Pistorius’s name? And does his sister still regret not getting his autograph?

When I approached the seated Pistorius he instinctively reached for my notebook and pen, thinking I was another fan, and he laughed when he realised it was me.

Outside the small paddock hundreds of fans waited for him. Among them were London-based siblings, a young brother and his baby sister, on holiday there with their grandparents, who live in Hartbeespoort.

The two youngsters were prepared to fight the crowds to get Pistorius’s autograph.

The boy succeeded, though it wasn’t a pain-free experience. “Someone trod on my foot, and someone else elbowed me in the face,” he recounted later.

But his sister was too small, and was swept back by the wave of supporters. She cried at her failure.

After Pistorius had been whisked away back to Gemona, I went to a local restaurant for dinner with the Hartbeespoort family.

The boy was chuffed with his autograph, but the irony was that he didn’t actually know who Pistorius was. Each time he referred to the Paralympic icon, he would start: “That guy. Oh, what’s his name again?”

They informed me over supper that there was a crime wave in the town — bicycle theft, committed by mischievous types going on joy rides.

In my hotel room later I noticed a tweet by Lolo Jones: “After races, can’t sleep. 2am in Italy, I’d like to walk on beach because that’s how romantic movies start but I won’t because that’s how horror movies end.”

Considering she had run the 100m hurdles in 12.43sec, it was hard to imagine any axe-wielding fiend or chainsaw-toting psycho getting close to catching her.

Seven months later Pistorius sank himself into notoriety when he shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp. The tear stains resulting from that moment will last a lifetime.

I wonder if that boy still forgets Pistorius’s name? And does his sister still regret not getting his autograph?

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