U.S. Paralympic Long Jumper Lex Gillette Talks About Losing His Vision Young
U.S. Paralympic athlete Elexis Gillette, who goes by Lex, has always had an affinity for the long jump, and he wasn’t going to let a little thing like vision loss prevent him from living out his dreams as an athlete.
“When I was a kid I used to jump off of the couch. I was kind of a jokey little kid. I had Superman pajamas. I used to tie bed sheets around my neck and jump around in the living room and ‘save the world,'” he told Uinterview exclusively.
Then Gillette started gradually losing his vision. “I didn’t bump my head, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t have an accident or anything like that. I told my mom and she had taken me to the doctor the next morning and they said that I had retina detachments in my eyes.” Several surgeries and a few years later, Gillette had lost his eyesight almost entirely, to the point where “I could only see lights and shadows.”
Gillette wasn’t discouraged. As you can tell by his broad grin and unflappable attitude in our video interview, he’s not the kind of person to be discouraged by a setback. “My mom and my family, they sat me down and told me that I still could achieve anything that I wanted to, I just may have to do it in a different fashion. And along that time I started getting my confidence back.”
Two Paralympic silver medals in the men’s Long jump F11 event — one from the 2008 Beijing Paralympic events and the other from the 2004 Athens games — later, Gillette loves nothing more than competing. “I’m able to be free and open and I don’t have any restraints; I don’t have anybody telling me that I can’t do anything. And so to be able to initiate the run and then the jump just gives me a sense of fulfillment, a sense of worth, and it’s something that I’ve been practicing for a while and so it means a lot to me.”
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