Olympic and Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius sobbed as he appeared in a South African court Friday and was formally accused of the "premeditated" murder of his girlfriend.
The sprinter -- who is nicknamed "Blade Runner" because he races wearing carbon-fiber prosthetic blades after he was born without a fibula in both legs – is charged with killing 30-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp at his home in a Pretoria suburb early Thursday.
Pistorius disputes the accusations in "the strongest terms," according to a statement issued Friday and reported by Reuters and The Associated Press.
South African media reported on Friday that Pistorius shot Steenkamp four times through a bathroom door at his Pretoria home, according to Reuters.
Pistorius was formally charged with one count of murder after the hearing began.
Prosecutors said they planned to argue the sports star had committed "premeditated murder."
He kept his head down as he cried and held his hands to his face. Some of his relatives also shed tears during the hearing.
According to Reuters, magistrate Desmond Nair told Pistorius to "Take it easy. Come take a seat."
He said nothing during the 40-minute hearing. His father, Henke, and brother, Carl, sat directly behind him in the packed court-room, occasionally leaning forward to give him a pat on the shoulder.
Pistorius' mother died in 2002 when he was 15 years old - a tragedy that he said drove him into pursuing a full-time sporting career.
The hearing was adjourned until Feb. 19 and Pistorius will remain in custody.
An application by the media for the proceedings to be televised was rejected at the start of the hearing.
After the hearing, a statement issued by Pistorius' agent said: "The alleged murder is disputed in the strongest terms." It added:
"Oscar Pistorius has made history as an Olympic and Paralympic sportsman and has been an inspiration to others the world over. He has made it very clear that he would like to send his deepest sympathies to the family of Reeva. He would also like to express his thanks through us today for all the messages of support he has received - but as stated our thoughts and prayers today should be for Reeva and her family - regardless of the circumstances."
Citing a neighbor, the Afrikaans-language Beeld newspaper reported Friday that Pistorius shot his girlfriend four times through a bathroom door. NBC News could not independently verify the report, which was translated by Reuters.
South African police said Thursday that Pistorius, 26, and Steenkamp were the only people in the house at the time of the shooting.
Numerous media outlets reported Thursday that Pistorius may have mistaken the woman for an intruder, but police said neighbors had heard noises before the shots and that there had been previous "domestic" incidents at the house.
Pistorius arrived at the court about two hours before the hearing that began at about 4:30 a.m. ET.
The couple had been dating for several months, and “seemed happy,” Steenkamp’s publicist Sarit Tomlinson told TODAY on Thursday. There was no sign of discord between the two, she said.
Tomlinson said that Pistorius was a “charming, great guy.”
Pistorius made history in London last year when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympic Games, propelling him to the status of an athletics superstar.
Having had both his legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday because of a congenital condition, he campaigned for years to be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes. Having initially been banned because of his carbon fiber blades - which critics said gave him an unfair advantage - he was cleared by sport's highest court in 2008 and allowed to run at the top events.
He competed in the 400 meters and on South Africa's 4x400 relay team at the London Games, making history when his selection for South Africa's team was confirmed at the very last minute. He also retained his Paralympic title in the 400 meters in London.
Cecile Antonie, Rohit Kachroo and Ian Johnston of NBC News contributed to this report, in addition to NBC's John Newland, Jason Cumming and Matthew DeLuca, Reuters and The Associated Press.