"I could not sleep for months after that night. I used to wake-up from my sleep and watch that race over and over again. That is my motivation. I don’t want that feeling again of being there and losing it with 40m to go.
America’s former 100m T43 world record holder Blake Leeper is hoping to put two years of nightmares behind him on Tuesday evening (23 July) when he races for 100m T43 gold at the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in Lyon, France.
Leeper was just 21 years old when he competed at the last World Championships in Christchurch, New Zealand, his first major international event, which he says has given him a number of sleepless nights since.
“I can remember Christchurch like it was yesterday,” said Leeper who won 200m T43 silver on Sunday (21 July). “I think about the 100m final every single day. I’d just gone 11.08 in Sydney before the competition, the fastest time in the world that year, and nobody knew who I was.
“The gun went off and in the first 60m I saw me and my teammate Jerome Singleton. First 60m I was there. You could not tell me I was not going to win.
“Then, in the last 40m, I just faded from first to fifth. That hurt me so much. It hurt me knowing I was so close.
“It was almost in reach but it was just taken away like that. Oscar [Pistorius] went by, Alan [Fonteles Oliveira] went by, Arnu [Fourie] went by and then Jerome went by. I could not sleep for months after that night. I used to wake-up from my sleep and watch that race over and over again. That is my motivation. I don’t want that feeling again of being there and losing it with 40m to go.”
Since Christchurch, Leeper has developed into one of the world’s fastest leg amputee sprinters and at London 2012 won 200m T43/44 bronze and silver in the 400m T43/44.
Due to the depth of talent competing in Lyon, the T43 and T44 classes have been split for the first time, which should improve Leeper’s chances of higher podium finishes. Unfortunately for him though he is in the same class as Brazil’s Alan Oliveira, the man who broke his 100m T43 world record in June, and on Sunday absolutely smashed the 200m T43 world record to take his first ever world title.
Leeper says his desire to claim back his 100m world record, in addition to putting the ghosts of Christchurch to rest, is all the motivation he needs.
“I’m not going to lie. I was a little upset,” said Leeper of hearing in June that Oliveira had run 10.77 seconds to break his world record of 10.91. “I was at trials and I woke up to a tweet asking how I felt about my world record being taken.
“I was a little hurt as I knew Oscar Pistorius’s world record had stood for five or six years and I came in and tied it. Mine only lasted less than a year. I used to be able to go round and tell people that I was the world record holder.
“Just like that it was taken away and I was hurt. That hurt was fuel to the fire. I was actually glad he did it as that just got me up to go back to the track and train harder. He’s taken it and I’m ready to take it back.”
The men’s T43 final will take place at 19:16 on Tuesday evening and will be streamed live via www.ParalympicSport.TV. Minutes later the T44 100m final will take place featuring the likes of Great Britain’s Jonnie Peacock and the American trio of Jerome Singleton, Jarryd Wallace and Richard Browne.