University Libraries welcomes Blake Leeper, Olympic/Paralympic Games Medalist, World and American Record Holder, to its Ordinary People, Extraordinary Stories lecture series this year.
Patrick “Blake” Leeper is an eight-time Paralympic Track and Field international medalist, world record holder and three-time American record holder. He started his medal run in 2011 at the Parapan American Games where he took his first silver in the 100-meter dash. He went on to compete in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, where he picked up two more medals, a bronze in the 200-meter dash and silver in the 400-meter dash, losing to South African Oscar Pistorius, whose world record of 45.39 seconds Leeper eventually broke. In April 2018, Leeper set a new world record of 45.05 in a 400 meter race, not only beating Pistorius’ record, but placing him in the top 10 amongst able bodied athletes. He is also striving to be the first American track and field Paralympian who qualifies for the able bodied Olympic trials.
Born without legs from a congenital birth defect, Leeper did not start racing until 2010. It was at his first ever race in Edmond, Oklahoma that he caught the attention of the Associate Director of High Performance for U.S. Paralympics Track and Field, who convinced his parents to let their son move into the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, where he started his habit of winning. That’s when Leeper left the University of Tennessee to embark on a journey that no one could envision for a kid from Tennessee born without legs.