2012 U.S. Paralympian Mark LeBlanc ’03 Addresses Morning Assembly
The Rio 2016 Paralympic Games close this weekend after nearly two weeks of events with sailboat racing set to conclude this Saturday. For one member of the Jesuit community, this sport holds particular significance. Just four years ago, Mark LeBlanc ’03 competed in the London 2012 Paralympics as a member of the U.S. Paralympic Sailing Team.
Noting the timeliness of the upcoming closing ceremonies, LeBlanc returned to his alma mater on Friday, Sept. 16, to speak at Morning Assembly. Making the presentation even more tangible, LeBlanc was introduced by junior Alex Klein, who himself is an athlete with a disability. Due to a cancer battle as a young child, Klein lost the bottom part of his right leg.
“I was an athlete before the amputation, and I am an athlete today, competing in track and field in the javelin and running events,” Klein said. “This morning we welcome back an alumnus who has accomplished a goal I someday hope to accomplish: to compete in the Paralympics.”
Though LeBlanc was born without the bottom portion of his left arm, he was born with competitive sailing in his blood. Like his father, 1968 Jesuit alumnus Mark A. LeBlanc, he was a four-year member of the school’s sailing team, competing in nationals annually. In college, LeBlanc served as president of the LSU sailing club, but it wasn’t until after Katrina that he began sailing competitively again. The U.S. Sailing Association took notice, inviting him to train and try out for the 2008 U.S. Paralympics team.
“I had no idea the Paralympics even existed,” LeBlanc said. “But it’s all about seizing the opportunity.”
Losing the final team spot on a tiebreaker, LeBlanc immediately set his sights on London’s games. In 2012, he won the U.S. championship and represented his country on the Paralympic Sailing Team. Facing other athletes with physical, motor, and visual impairments, LeBlanc finished 6th in the 2.4-meter race.
“Competing in the Paralympics was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. It took perseverance, grit, and determination,” LeBlanc continued. “Everything that Jesuit taught me, I put to good use.”
LeBlanc earned a degree in civil engineering in 2007 from LSU, and is now a project manager at CB&I, a Baton Rouge-based firm. LeBlanc and his wife Caroline have two children, a girl, 3, and a boy, 1.