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February 18, 2013

Oscar Pistorius faces bail hearing in murder case

JOHANNESBURG — Oscar Pistorius faces a bail hearing Tuesday and Wednesday, in which prosecutors explain why they've charged the Olympian with murder over the Valentine's Day shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Pistorius hasn't entered a plea in the case, though his family has said they strongly deny the 26-year-old double-amputee runner committed murder. They have not, however, denied outright that Pistorius shot Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and law school graduate who is featured in a South African reality television show.

Here are some facts about the case that has shaken a nation that idolized the runner:

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THE BLADE RUNNER

Pistorius made history in the London Games last year when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympics. He's known as "the Blade Runner," a nickname that plays off the high-tech carbon-fiber blades that he races on. Pistorius had both legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday because of a congenital condition, and campaigned for years to be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes. He was initially banned because of his blades — which critics said gave him an unfair advantage — before being cleared by sport's highest court in 2008. In 2011, he won a silver medal at the world championships having been the first amputee runner to ever compete there.

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THE MODEL GIRLFRIEND

Steenkamp is a local celebrity in South Africa, known for appearing in both domestic and international commercials. She's also known for her vampy, bikini-clad photo spreads in men's magazines. She was named one of the world's 100 Sexiest Women for two years running by FHM magazine. She met Pistorius in November at a race track near Johannesburg and ended up accompanying him to a sports award show the same night, a mutual friend has said. She also was a contestant on "Tropika Island of Treasure 5," a reality television show sponsored by a milk-fruit drink now being aired on South Africa's national broadcaster SABC.

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