Blake Leeper – Rise Up
Eight-time Paralympic Track and Field Champion Blake Leeper recounts the day he stopped asking himself ‘Why Me?’ and started asking ‘Why Not Me?’
The doctors said I would never walk a day in my life.
I remember I was playing T-ball, about five or six years old, this T-ball season I wanted to do one thing and one thing only. I wanted to hit a home run, and there was two reason why I really wanted to hit the home run.
The first reason was for my father, me and him together would show the world that I could do it, he would be so proud of me. And the second reason was for my teammates. If I hit a home run they would accept me and love me.
I remember like it was it was yesterday. I walked up to the plate and then on the third swing I hit the ball as hard as I can, and the ball just starts flying in the air and I get so excited that I forget to run. So everybody is saying, “Run, Blake, run.”
I’m on my way to second, then I look over on my way to second, see my dad on third base cheering for me. He’s so excited, this is the moment that I was waiting for. And he’s jumping up and down talking about, “You got this, you got this.”
I look over to my teammates and they’re like jumping on the fence yelling for me, saying, “Run, Blake, run.”
I’m on my way to third base, and on my way to third base my leg falls off.
Eat dirt, right? Guy comes over and tags me out. The innings over. I look over to my dad and all that excitement that he had it was gone, and I look over to my teammates and they was jumping and yelling for me. They was done doing that.
I could remember it while I was sitting there in the dirt with my leg … one leg on, one leg off, and I felt like I let my father down, I felt like I let my teammates down. I was mad at myself. I was mad at the world.
I remember asking myself, “Why me? I don’t get this. This doesn’t make sense. This isn’t fair. Why am I the one born without legs? Why am I the one that has to go through this? Look at my father, my mother, my brother, my teammates. Everybody has their legs. This isn’t fair.”
I always remember how I was asking the wrong questions. I was asking something I had no control over, you know what I mean? “Why me?” So I decided to flip it. I decided to take control over it. Started to ask myself well why not? I’m meant for this. Or why not me? I’m strong enough for this. Well why not me? I’m smart enough for this.
Everything that we go through is for a reason. Whether it’s something big, it’s something small, that it’s prepared us for our next mission.
So that moment when I fell down and my leg fell off and I had that feeling of letting my teammates and my father down. That feeling of failure. That’s the moments that built me. That’s not how hard you can hit. Life is not about that. Life is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.
I was about 17 or 18 years old and I got my first pair of running blades. Something came over me. And I was running as hard as I can. I can feel the way the wind was hitting my face. I’ve never felt that ever. My heart was pumping. My blood was flowing. In that moment I knew this is what I want.
All of those doubts and people thinking I won’t be able to or no you can’t. That’s the fuel to the fire. I would show you how hard I have worked. I will show you my capabilities. I will show you how I fight through adversity to prove them that this is not my disability. That this is my ability.
I was actually in the 2012 Paralympic Games where I took a silver and a bronze. After I won my first Olympic medal, I kinda met the family in a part of the stadium. I looked over and my grandfather was actually crying. And I remember that moment it was just tears of … it wasn’t tears of sadness. It was tears of joy. He was just so excited and so happy for his grandson that was born without legs and for me that was the first time I’d ever see him cry before.
And just that moment right there, that’s the reason why I wake up each and every day and grind and put forth that effort to become one of the fastest men in the world, legs or no legs.
So my story is that anything is possible. You can do anything as long as you set your mind to it, and as long as you focus hard and you put 120 percent effort in whatever task that is at hand. You can overcome any challenge that’s thrown your way. We all face certain challenges and have some type of disability whether you are born short, born tall, born without legs, whatever it is, you should never be a victim of your circumstances.
Life is 10 percent of what you’re dealt with an 90 percent on how you deal with it. Focus on that 90. That 10 percent you have no control over. Whatever challenges that you’re facing today, embrace them. Whatever struggles that you’re going through that you’re going to through tomorrow, accept it. Be excited about it because that’s going show you how to overcome that challenge. Whatever else is thrown at me I can face it.
I used to forget everything and run. Now I faced everything and I rise.
My name is Blake Leeper. I’m a two time track and field world record holder, eight time international medalist, and I was born without legs.