Blind Long Jumper Envisions Winning Gold After 4 Silver in Paralympics
Blind long jumper Lex Gillette is chasing after a gold medal after the recent Tokyo Paralympics after already winning 4 silver.
Lex Gillette and his popular trademark slogan, “No need for sight when you have a vision,” printed on a black-and-gray T-shirt remain sold out on his website but he vowed to make a new batch as he envisions taking the gold medal next time after going home with 4 silver medals altogether in his four previous trips to the Paralympics.
“Basically the only box I haven’t checked yet,” said Gillette, who competes Friday in Japan. “So it would definitely mean a lot (to win).”
The Athlete’s Journey
“I’ve been able to do a lot of awesome things,” he said.
The blurriness he experienced in his sight at 8 was explained to be recurrent retinal detachments. He did not experience trauma, no sickness, no accidents – the blurriness in his sight naturally occurred.
He went through 10 eye operations in an effort to save his vision, and finally, on his last one, the doctors informed him that they could not save his eyesight.
It was another coincidence that he discovered the track. He went to school with sighted kids and the gym activity happened to be the standing long jump.
“The place was literally going bonkers,” Gillette recalled. “I just jumped through the roof.”
One of his teachers, Brian Whitmer taught him about the mechanics of the sport and planted the Paralympics idea to him.
“He was like, ‘You could travel the world. You can break records. You can win medals,’” said Gillette, who sang the national anthem at various events, including a San Diego Padres game. “He helped me to see my potential.”
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In the Track
This is how it works: Before a jump, Williams walks with Gillette to the starting point. Then, Williams heads back near the sandpit and waits.
Once Gillette takes off down the runway, Williams claps to guide him along, screaming “fly, fly, fly, fly,” as Gillette approaches the takeoff point to let him know he’s on the right path. He’ll also holler “stop” if Gillette veers off course.
“If it only takes a stride to get to the back of the pit, you have an idea, ‘All right, I think that this was something good,’” said Gillette, who trains at the Elite Athlete Training Center in Chula Vista, California.
Williams is Gillette’s teammate, coach, and friend.
“I got into this game understanding the role and we didn’t start out getting medals. Lex and I have gone on to win a ton of competitions and I feel just as awarded as he does!” Williams wrote in an email.
“We are aiming to let the powers that be know that it’s just not what you see at championships in regards to the guides. We are literally a part of the process from beginning to end, putting in the sweat equity and fitness standards to propel the athlete/s to personal bests, world records, and the medal stand!”
About his mantra — “No need for sight when you have a vision” — Gillette came up with it in 2008 simply as a way to inspire.