OKLAHOMA CITY – The summer Olympics are three and a half years away.
Preparations are already underway in Tokyo and in Oklahoma.
Elite runner Blake Leeper believes he will be the first American amputee to compete in the able-bodied Olympics without his own legs.
Leeper made headlines in 2016 at the 100 m qualifier for Rio when he finished second after losing one of prosthetic legs at the finish line.
Leeper ditched those loose legs and has traveled to Oklahoma to start again.
He chose the team at Scott Sabolich Prosthetics and Research to craft his new blades.
Leeper was born without legs, the results of a congenital condition.
Doctors told his parents he’d never walk.
He put on his first pair of blades at 18 years old and has not stopped competing since.
Leeper outpaced every runner on the track in last year’s Paralympic trials.
He is now on track to be the first American amputee to qualify for Tam USA’s able-bodied Olympic track team.
“I’m trying to be the fastest man in the world and, to be the fastest man in the world, you have to come see the best,” Leeper said.
Scott Sabolich and a team of about half a dozen prosthetists have been working around the clock on a prototype for Leeper.
“There’s a lot of unknowns,” Sabolich said. “There’s no playbook on how to build a prostheses. So, it’s step by step and trial and error.”
Leeper lives and trains in Los Angeles, but he will fly to Oklahoma City a few times a year over the next three years so Sabolich can perfect his prosthetic legs.
“Yeah, we’re all living vicariously through this guy. We’re never going to be in the Olympics or even Paralympics. This guys has the potential to do amazing stuff,” Sabolich said.
There has been only one other double-amputee to participate in the Olympics, Oscar Pistorius.
Leeper believes he can beat Pistorius’ times in the 200 and 400 meter races.