June 19, 2012 6:49 p.m.
“I was scared,” he says.
All his life, Leeper had worn what amputees call “walking legs,” which are built sturdy for getting around but are not so great for running or jumping.
Those legs had carried him through countless basketball and baseball games, from youth leagues to high school. But how many times had they kept him from grabbing a rebound? How often had they popped off as he rounded second base?
“They’d be lying in the dirt behind me,” he says. “You learn there are some things in life you can’t control.”
Things the young man from Tennessee had endured with a shrug and a tenacious smile. Now he had some help — a pair of $30,000 prosthetics made for sprinting. Though everyone warned him to start slowly, he headed straight for the track at the local high school.
His parents came along. So did his prosthetist and the prosthetist’s wife because, in the small town of Church Hill, no one had ever seen legs quite like these.
Leeper walked the first 100 meters a little unsteadily. Then he began to run. Fast.
“The way the wind was hitting my face,” he says, “it was the feeling that had always been missing.”
So many frustrations evaporated in those few seconds. Leeper felt like a superhero in a comic book.
A cool breeze scuttles across the Olympic training center, a rambling complex of playing fields, sand volleyball courts and an archery range in the suburbs south of San Diego.
The early chill doesn’t make it any easier on Leeper as he emerges from the dorms, tired, and shuffles down to the track. The 22-year-old, just back from a meet in Manchester,England, prepares for his daily workout.
Cotton hose protect the nub ends of his legs, just below the knee. He slides into custom sockets, fiddling with valves that create a suction fit. His sprinting legs, too slender for anything other than straight-ahead speed, must be aligned perfectly.
An able-bodied runner stops by to chat.
“Blake is a little goofy,” says Yvette Lewis, an accomplished hurdler. “But he’s a hard worker.”
Olympic and Paralympic athletes train side by side at Chula Vista. Eager to field winning teams, the U.S. Olympic Committee pays to house them in the same compound with trainers, nutritionists and massage therapists.
No sooner has Leeper jogged a few warmup laps — shaking the kinks from a compact, muscular body — than his coach arrives. It is Joaquim Cruz, one of the greatest 800-meter runners ever.
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
23125 355759 47
his path of destiny = 47 = Name recognition. Having a bright future.
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