Jose Leep (COL) has climbed to the top of the wheelchair basketball world, a remarkable feat considering the devastating accident that destroyed his childhood.
Leep, now 41, was just five when his entire family was killed in an avalanche near his home in Ocana, Colombia. The disaster claimed the lives of his parents, four sisters and two brothers.
“I still remember everything. I lost my legs during the avalanche, but everyone in my family died, except me,” Leep said.
He was discovered by neighbors and rushed to hospital, where his legs were amputated. As an orphan with nowhere to go, he spent three years in hospital before a charity, Family Welfare, arranged for him to go to the United States, where he was adopted.
“Everything changed from there,” he said. “My whole life began to normalize. But it was completely different: the culture, the language. They put me in a school where no one spoke Spanish. I had to take extra English classes to learn it all.