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    Preview: Big Dreams for the 2019 Annual Meeting


    Following the lead of our core value of Think Big Be Great, we’re setting our sights high for the 2019 Annual Meeting. Really high. Olympic-caliber high. In addition to looking back over a great year, we’ll be recognizing tremendous leaders in our business and non-profit communities and looking ahead at the exciting programs and opportunities we’ve got planned for the year ahead. And then there’s Blake Leeper. 


    When it comes to thinking big about his future, few people are aiming higher than US Paralympic athlete, Patrick “Blake” Leeper. Born without legs, he’s not only run toward his dreams of being the fastest man on the planet, but he’s crushing his goals and thinking even bigger. He’s an Olympic/Paralympic Games Medalist, an eight-time Paralympic Track and Field international medalist, and the world record holder and three-time American record holder. 


    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. 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.


    In June of 2018, running in a field of able-bodied runners, he shattered his own world record in the 400 meters, coming in at 44.42, the fastest time ever by an amputee. He medal-winning races began in 2011 at the Parapan American Games, then in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London (losing to South African Oscar Pistorius, whose world record of 45.39 seconds Leeper eventually broke), and in 2013 at the Paralympic World Championships in Lyon, France.


    Leeper was chosen by the US Paralympics to represent Team USA in Rio 2016. At the Paralympic trials, he set a new American and new America’s records. He took silver in the 100m despite losing a prosthetic leg crossing the finish line live on NBC. 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. Leeper’s medal collection includes one gold, six silver and one bronze.


    Over his career, he hopes to win more medals than any Paralympic athlete in track and field. He is also striving to be the first American track and field Paralympian who qualifies for the able-bodied Olympic trials.