CHULA VISTA, Calif. – Sprinter Blake Leeper just got a pair of fresh legs in March that he’ll use at three Paralympics events.
“This is the ‘Cheetah Blade’, made by Ossur. It’s all carbon fiber,” the 22-year-old San Diego resident said while holding up a prosthetic leg. “They went with the form, actually of a cheetah animal. So all the energy is coming through the curve and springing me forward.”
The ‘Cheetahs’ used by Leeper are the same prosthetics used by Oscar Pistorius, the South African sprinter who overcame his disability, opposition from other runners and legal battles to become the first amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympics when he runs the 400 meters in London.
Leeper set American records in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 400 meters at the U.S.Paralympic trials and he’s fired up to face Pistorius in all three events at the Paralympics.
“I’m really excited that he’s going to do both,” Leeper said. “It’s giving me a chance to really work hard. So if he medals or even competes, I can say, ‘I competed against a semi-final runner or Olympic medalist runner.’”
Born with a birth defect that necessitated amputating both legs below the knee, Leeper says he took up track just three years ago and he has already improved to the second-best sprinter in the world, by times, behind only Pistorius.
After the Paralympics next month in London, he plans to shift his focus to a new goal: the Olympics and running against able-bodied athletes – following the trail blazed by Pistorius.
“Seeing that he could do that, a double-amputee running these times, I felt inspired,” Leeper said. “I felt motivated.”
Leeper said he will need to drop about one full second from his 100 meter and 200 meter times to have a chance to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team, but he also points out: “My coach always says, ‘What one man can do another man can.’ I’m a true believer in that.”