SOURCE: The RHL Group

The RHL Group

June 16, 2016 08:05 ET

Patrick "Blake" Leeper Runs to Break Pistorius's World Record and Continue to Race for Gold

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwired - Jun 16, 2016) - You never really know a person until you walk around in their shoes, or in this case, their legs. Patrick "Blake" Leeper, one of the world's fastest "blade runners," is attempting to break Oscar Pistorius's world record in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada Tuesday, June 21. According to Steve Milton in his sports column in The Hamilton Spectator, "If the all-comers meet had been even a day earlier, one of the very best 'blade runners' in the world wouldn't be trying to break Oscar Pistorius's world record in Hamilton."

Less than 24 hours after his one-year suspension ends for testing positive for a non-performance enhancing drug, Leeper will run for redemption, and a new 400-meter world record. Leeper, 26, born in Kingsport, Tennessee, without legs, took silver behind the now infamous Paralympic gold medalist Oscar Pistorius, in the 400 meters at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

"Most people thought I was crazy when I said I wanted to be the fastest man in the world," Leeper recalls. "But their mocking and ridiculing me was just fuel to my fire to prove I could do the impossible." Patrick's parents were told he would never walk, let alone run. However, that didn't stop them from outfitting their son with his first prosthetic legs at just nine months old. He grew up playing basketball and baseball with the other kids, even if he was usually picked last and always the odd one out. It wasn't until he was 19, watching Pistorius competing on TV, that he knew he was born to run. Within two years he was winning medals at international competitions racing against the world's fastest parathletes, including Oscar Pistorius.

Leeper became an eight-time Paralympic Track and Field international medalist, world record holder (in the 4x100m relay where his record still stands today) and three-time American record holder (in the 100m, 200m and 400m dash). His success paired with an infectious personality attracted the international media, including late night television and news magazines, and drew invitations to participate in celebrity sports events like the NBA All-Star Game and the ESPY Awards. He was living a life he had always dreamed of. Or so it seemed.

Behind his bright smile was a dark secret. Being born without legs wasn't the biggest obstacle Leeper had to overcome. His invisible demon was a longtime battle with alcoholism. Insecurities caused by his disability led him to drink to ease the pain. The drinking in turn led to bad choices and that led to a suspension from his sport. After facing the realities of how alcohol was destroying his life he admitted he needed help and reached out for a recovery program.

That's when businessman philanthropist Bob Lorsch of the Robert H. Lorsch Foundation who also serves as CEO of The RHL Group reached out to and joined forces with the Victorino Noval Foundation. After learning about Leeper's predicament, the two philanthropic foundations stepped in to pave a road to Leeper's recovery.

As a result, through The RHL Group, Lorsch formed Team Leepster (www.teamleepster.com). "Patrick needed help to stay sober and his life needed major fixing to serve his talent," said Lorsch. "Team Leepster (#TeamLeepster) was formed to support Patrick's recovery, financially, legally and nutritionally, in the gym, and on the track. His running career was being stripped away from him and his dreams were being shattered. He had a long-term disease that wasn't adequately addressed and, in fact, one could say it was ignored. I believed that Patrick was a good kid, with a unique gift, and he deserved a second chance."

According to Leeper, "I am incredibly grateful to all the attorneys, accountants, businessmen, management, physicians and recovery experts who came into my life through Team Leepster. In particular, I want to thank those behind the scenes at the United States Olympic Committee and USADA who punched my ticket to competing and sent me my written invitation for my spot in the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials later this month, making my dream again a reality. The love, support and encouragement they have shown to me over the past year has made my return to the track possible. I'm excited about the opportunity to get back in the race stronger and smarter than I ever was before."

After more than eight months of dedicated work, and commitment and resolve to a comprehensive full-time program of recovery and intense physical training, Leeper will have his opportunity to demonstrate that anything is possible. He aims to break Pistorius's 400 meter record of 45.39.

"I want to be a living example that anything is possible. I want to demonstrate how a person can fall down and learn to get back up. I want kids to know that whatever challenges life throws in their path, they can overcome them, to win," Leeper said.

For more information about Patrick "Blake" Leeper's run on June 21st, see sports columnist Steve Milton's article, "Leeper is back in the game and after a world record," which appeared this week in The Hamilton Spectator.

About Patrick "Blake" Leeper

Patrick "Blake" Leeper started his medal run in 2011 at the Pan American Games where he took silver in the 100-meter dash. He went on to compete in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, where he picked up two more medals, a bronze in the 200-meter dash and silver in the 400-meter dash, losing to South African Oscar Pistorius, whose world record of 45.39 seconds is the one Leeper is chasing. In 2013, Leeper also took four medals at the Paralympic World Championships in Lyon, France, where he ran as part of the world record-setting 4x100-meter relay gold medal team. At the same event he took the silver medal in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash and 400-meter dash.

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. In addition to the medals he has already won, Leeper holds one 2013 Paralympic world record in the 4x100m relay and three American records in the 100-meter dash (10.91), the 200-meter dash (21.7) and the 400-meter dash (48.3). Leeper's world record for his part in the 4x100-meter relay still stands today.

The 26-year-old Leeper, who was born without legs from a congenital birth defect, 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, where he started his habit of winning. 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. Visit www.teamleepster.com and follow him on Twitter #TeamLeepster.

About The RHL Group

The RHL Group, Inc. is a business management and investment-holding corporation with interests in advertising, marketing, management and health care. Robert H. "Bob" Lorsch is also a well-known Los Angeles entrepreneur and philanthropist whose Robert H. Lorsch Foundation Trust supports science & technology, animal welfare and running organizations, including Race with Purpose. The foundation also recently enabled Marathon Kids to cross the finish line at The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum while carrying the last Olympic Torch carried by Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner. The Coliseum is situated directly across from The Robert H. Lorsch Family Pavilion, which serves as the gateway to the California Science Center in historic Exposition Park. Visit www.rhlgroup.com.

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