Blake Leeper on Becoming First-Ever Paralympian to Star in Nike Underwear Campaign: 'We're All One'
"We may look different and yes, we may be unique in certain areas, but at the end of the day, we're all the same and we all need to be included," Blake Leeper told PEOPLE
Blake Leeper is grateful to be different — and happy a major company is highlighting that.
The sprinter appears in Nike's new national men's underwear campaign, the first-ever Paralympic athlete and double amputee to do so.
Speaking to PEOPLE earlier this year about the collaboration, Leeper — a Tennessee native who was born without lower legs — says, "It speaks volumes to inclusion."
"Nike is always on the forefront of inclusion," says Leeper. "I'm hoping that some people ... get the message and say that we're all one right now. We're all in this together."
Having "Nike as a family," he says, has been characterized by "love and support." "And as a disabled athlete, it's just how Nike treats me. It just blows my mind."
"We may look different and yes, we may be unique in certain areas, but at the end of the day, we're all the same and we all need to be included," Leeper continues. "And how amazing is this going to be when this campaign comes out and there's going to be a disabled child who sees it?"
Leeper made his Paralympics debut in 2012, winning a bronze and a silver medal. The next year, in the World Para Athletics Championships, he won a gold medal in the men's 4 × 100m relay. He's been fighting to be able to compete in an Olympic Games but lost his appeal earlier this year when the Court of Arbitration for Sport backed that his parestheses give him an unfair advantage.
Despite the disappointing steback, Leeper said he's focused on manifesting "nothing but greatness into my life."
"One thing I've learned being born without legs, sometimes you got to make lemonade out of lemons," he told PEOPLE. "And these are the lemons that we've been dealt with."
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