Eight-time paralympic medal winner and world record holder Patrick “Blake” Leeper told a crowd at Tennessee Tech to always keep a positive attitude.
Leeper is a 28-year-old track and field runner with no legs who runs on prosthetics from Kingston, Tennessee.
His first Paralympic Games were the 2012 games in London. At the International Paralymic Committee Athletics World Championship in 2013, Leeper’s team set the world record for the paralympic men’s 4×100-meter relay race with a time of 40.73 seconds. In June, Leeper broke the world record for the men’s T43 400-meter run with 45.25 seconds. T43 is a classification for athletes with two amputations below the knees. His medal collection includes one gold, six silvers and one bronze.
Leeper said he faces challenges every day and not having legs is just a small part of his life. The biggest part is how he handles the situation.
He told the crowd a story of when he was born and how his family reacted. He said when his family got to see him for the first time they made two decisions. The first would be to stick together as family no matter what and the second would be to have a positive attitude about the situation.
He said having a positive attitude and focusing on what he can do right instead of what could go wrong gives him the confidence to succeed.
He told the crowd when he competed in the 2013 IPC Athletic World Championships that he started to doubt himself. He said he wanted to win a gold medal but he could not finish better than second in his events. His teammates for the 4×100 told him if they work together they could win the gold, he said. He told the crowd this brought back his positive attitude and they did win the gold medal.
However, having a positive attitude does not make life easier, he said.
“I’m not going to stand up here and tell you that if you keep a positive attitude … life is going to be a ok because that’s a lie,” Leeper said.
In June 2015, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency suspended Leeper for two years after discovering cocaine in his system. The USADA reduced the suspension to one year but the IPC chose to uphold the original two-year suspension.
He said he currently holds the 12th fastest 400 time in the United States but he needs to be at least sixth in order to make the U.S. Olympic team. He told the crowd he wants to be the best in the world.
“My goal is to become the fastest man in the world, legs or no legs,” Leeper said.
He said in a world that cannot be controlled two things can: attitude and effort. Leeper told the crowd if they keep a positive attitude and use all their effort they can achieve great things.
“It might get bad sometimes, it may seem like you’re down and out, it might seem like you can’t push through but I promise you there’s always going to be a rainbow,” Leeper said.