Blake Leeper was born without lower legs and has been using prosthesis since he was a toddler. Unwilling to sit on the sidelines, he played cross-country, baseball and basketball in middle and high school.
Then in 2008 the Challenged Athlete Foundation awarded him a grant to get new, top-of-the-line Ossur Cheetahs, the prosthetics that Oscar Pistorius was using to set the Paralympic racing world on fire.
“It put me on the next level,” Blake has said. Just months later, at the 2009 Endeavour Games, still only 19 years old and unsure of how to position his new prosthetics on the starting blocks, he won gold in the 100m, 200m, and 400m – all in one afternoon. The wins earned him a spot on the 2010 Paralympic team and a chance to follow up, at his next track meet in Brazil, with bronze and silver medals.
In December 2010, Blake decided to move to the Olympic training center at Chula Vista, CA, where he’s focusing on speed, strength, and technique. His personal best in the 100m, 11.08 seconds, is slower than Pistorius’ world record of 10.91, set in 2007 in the T43 class.
But Blake feels ready, at age 22, to run and win against both Pistorius and U.S. teammate Jerome Singleton, the star sprinter who edged out Pistorius, for the first time in seven years, at the 2011 World Championships.