American Blade Runner, Blake Leeper, Seeks Gold In Rio 2016 Games
“Most people think that would be a tragedy being born without legs, that would be terrible, but actually that’s been my strength.” Those are the inspiring words of Blake Leeper, who was born with both legs missing below the knee due to “a congenital birth defect.” He has been in prosthetics since the age of nine. But now at age 26, Leeper is embarking on a journey most Americans wouldn’t even dream: Olympic gold.
Next year, the American double-amputee will race for gold at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. “I want to be No. 1 in the world and I will not stop until I am No. 1 in the world.” It seems like Leeper is on the right track to be just that. Leeper recently tied the world record in the 100-meter at 10.91 seconds. He’s only the second double-amputee ever to break 11 seconds over that distance. At the 2013 Paralympic Championships, Leeper helped set a new world record in the 4×100 relay on the way to the team’s gold medal in the race. At the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, Leeper won silver in the 400-meter and bronze in the 200-meter. He’s literally made huge strides every step of the way, but the impossibility of it all is what gives him the courage to continue. To say the least, life as a double-amputee hasn’t always been easy, but it’s maybe because of his struggles that Leeper has the strength to pursue those dreams today. “I grew up playing anything and everything as much as possible,” Leeper said in an interview with Nike. “I used sports as a way of showing the community that they don’t need to treat me differently. I know I’m missing my legs and I know I might look a little different but if you see me on the court or you see me on the baseball field, then you are gonna have to play me. Hard. So treat me the same when you see me in the classroom, treat me the same when you see me walking through the hallways or you see me in the community. And the more I competed the more respect I started gaining.” Leeper’s resolve and will are what pushes him, knowing that he’s overcome so much and knowing that the only limitations he has are the ones he places on himself. “I can tell you this… if I do fail, if I don’t hit that peak, I cannot look back and say I wish I just tried a little bit harder. No. That cannot and will not be the case so I’m training all out to put myself in a situation where failure’s not an option.” We know we’ll be rooting for you, Blake! Before Rio, you can see Leeper in action in a new documentary, Leap of Faith: The American Bladerunner Story, narrated by actor Blair Underwood.