|LSU Grad and Paralympian sails to success|
Hometown: New Orleans
Sailor Mark LeBlanc excels in wind.
Snapping, rabid gales propel him. Gentle breezes prove a tougher read.
At birth, he emerged without a forearm.
A different life—some would say a more difficult one—unfurled before him, by design.
Now, LeBlanc doesn't look for easy. He's a member of the U.S. Disabled Sailing Team and competing at the London 2012 Paralympics. Beginning Aug. 29, he'll be hoping the waves of Weymouth—a few hours from London—will have real teeth.
Leblanc races in a one-person keelboat. and honed his skills as a boy racing the Optimist Fleet at Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans. To win, he says, you have to keep your eye on the competition. One glance at your feet, and your dreams hit the doldrums.
“Some older sailors say half the race is the start,” he says. “Once you're in front it's simpler.”
LeBlanc graduated from LSU with a degree in civil engineering. There, he picked up skills that help him to read water and wind conditions.
His proving grounds at this year's Paralympics: a wreck-strewn sea that will test his years of sailing from False River, where the LSU sailing club he founded got its legs, to ferocious, choppy waters around the globe.
From the rocks of Dorset, shivering soldiers embarked after the impossible, launching their sterns toward the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.
“It's going to be cold, it's going to be rainy, and it's probably going to be very windy,” LeBlanc says.
And yet, what could be better than hauling a boat at the knife's edge of a whipped and windy surf?
What could be better than pushing to be the best, being fearfully and wonderfully made to stand atop a podium wreathed in precious metal?
Better than most, LeBlanc knows nothing that matters is easy.
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