Jake Repp lost his foot -- but loves the life he gained as a result.
REPP always puts his best foot forward.
freshman is also one leg ahead of the competition.
give his right foot to help anyone out -- oh wait, he doesn't have one.
offended, this TCU freshman isn't. In fact, those are his one-legged one-liners,
ice breakers to ease the anxiety of people who don't know what to do around
those with one less limb.
"I can still
feel my toes and move them even though they aren't there," Repp explained.
"Basically, it feels like your foot's asleep 24 hours a day.
really not that much different; while you get up and brush your teeth,
I get up, put my leg on and then brush my teeth."
breakfast, he also might run 100 meters in 11.5 seconds. Repp is the nation's
fourth fastest parathlete for a person with a below-the-knee amputation.
1998, Repp also competed in the International Paralympic Committee World
Games in Birmingham, England, reaching the 100- and 200-meter semifinals
and the 400-meter relay finals.
has run a long way in three years, which is when his race really began.
A sophomore at Jesuit College prep school in Dallas, Repp was a standout
point guard playing in the school's summer basketball league. He jumped
for a rebound and came down wrong on his ankle.
sprain never healed. A
visit to his doctor turned into a trip to see an oncologist.
me they had found three tumors, but not to worry," Repp recalled. "They
could have been benign or just calcium deposits."
and further x-rays revealed 28 tumors from his toe to his ankle, an incurable
cancer called angio sarcoma.
"It was either
lose the leg and keep my life, or keep the leg and lose my life," Repp
said. "I knew what I had to do.
to God through the whole thing. In fact, He's pretty much the reason --
and my family -- that I got through that whole ordeal."
he didn't look at his new stump for two weeks after the surgery. It was
another six months before his first prosthetic arrived.
I was going to be a peg-legged pirate." he said. "People were going to
look at me differently in the grocery story, I was going to have to wear
pants all the time. I had to make a choice: 'Jake you can sit here and
watch your friends go do things and feel sorry for yourself -- or you
can forget about being an amputee and get back up. If it's not possible
to play basketball and run, you should make it possible.' "
a little help from paralympian Thomas Bourgeois didn't hurt, who happened
to live a short distance from Repp's grandparents in San Antonio. Through
a mutual friend, the two-time Olympian met Repp and his family -- parents
David and Amy Repp and 14-year-old sister Jenna.
introductory lunch, Bourgeois invited Repp and his father to play a game
of basketball. The threesome challenged three students from Trinity University,
him move around the court and school these college guys; we won three
out of four games," Repp said. "He proved to me right there that it was
puts Repp's running potential another way.
on an artificial leg at full speed is like driving backwards going 55
miles per hour using only your review mirror to guide yourself," he said.
"Jake is one of the fastest amputees in the world, and he's probably 10
years away from his physical peak. He's definitely a born sprinter."
to compete in the Olympics one day, as early as 2000, but more likely
in 2004. Currently, he trains alongside the TCU track and field squad
on the newly opened Lowdon Track.
Monte Stratton and Dan Waters) are making an exception for me so that
I can train with the team," he said. "I hope other schools see this and
allow other amputees to do the same thing."
Repp has also taken time to show new amputees at Dallas' Scottish Rite
Hospital that anything is possible for them, too.
at me like I'm Michael Jordan," said Repp, grinning. "I put on my sprint
leg and bounce around. "This may sound strange, but losing my foot was
a blessing; I'm a better person today, after the accident. I don't take
anything for granted anymore."
do the TCU students who have become friends with Repp during his first
semester at TCU.
met Jake and have seen how he handled this, anything I think is too hard
I just think of him," freshman Ben Thompson said. "He overcame cancer,
he runs record times, and I can't write a paper? I don't think so."