25 augustus 2019

Jose Leep overcomes childhood tragedy to live his dreams

Tijdens de Lima 2019 ParaPan American Games interviewde ik Jose Leep uit Colombia over zijn jeugd, zijn dromen en doelen. 

Het hele verhaal lees je hieronder. 

Jose Leep / Lima 2019 News Service

Jose Leep overcomes childhood tragedy to live his dreams

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.

“It was a good thing for me to go from the hospital to a family. It felt really nice. I love them. They always took care of me.”

Leep took up wheelchair basketball following a chance meeting in a McDonald’s restaurant, when he struck up a conversation with a guy in a wheelchair and was invited to try the sport.

“Ever since then, I was hooked,” he said.

Leep now lives in Spain where he plays for Club Deportivo y Fundacion Zuzenak, and he credits the sport with helping to make his dreams come true.

“Everything that happened to me when I was younger is a part of me. From one moment to another, my whole life changed forever,” he said.

“But over time I managed to overcome it. Of course I still think about it every now and then. But I found out that I should continue to fight to make my dreams come true.

“Thanks to the sport I can travel the world, that has always been a dream. I was able to digest what happened to me and decided to continue. It was worth doing that, because there is more to come.”

One of LEEP’s sporting ambitions could be realised next year if Colombia qualifies for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, although their bid to claim a Parapan American Games medal that would guarantee that passage did not get off to the best of starts on Sunday [25 August] as they were beaten 64-51 by Canada.

“It wasn’t the result we wanted. But if we showed anything today, it’s that we can compete with the bigger teams. We need to keep pushing,” he said.

“I guess over the years I’ve learned that you always need to push through. Even if times are hard.”

Jose Leep / News Service Lima 2019