Defying Gravity: Lex Gillette, Blind Paralympic Long Jumper

Lex Gillette, blind Paralympic long jumper, competes in track and field events for the US. Among his many accolades are – medalist, world champion and record holder. He also won the Athletes in Excellence Award for his community service work with youth and is a talented musician – pianist and vocalist.

We had the honor of interviewing the Raleigh, North Carolina native and were inspired by his amazing story. Watch the interview with Lex above, or read the full transcription below (lightly edited for clarity).

Lex Gillette

Lex Gillette, Paralympic Long Jumper (00:03) – I’m Lex Gillette, five-time Paralympic medalist, four-time world champion and world record holder in the long jump for totally blind athletes. I lost my sight when I was eight years old. My mom, she was the one who told me that I don’t want you to be bound by society’s expectations and opinions of what what they believe that you can and cannot do. You decide what you can do and no one else.

(00:38) – Running and jumping without your eyesight is one of the most incredible feelings out there. Wesley, he walks me to that start mark where I begin my run. He’ll then jog to the opposite end, which is about 115 feet, 34/35ish meters away, giving me the best target possible with his voice and his clapping hands.

LG (01:09) – When I leave the ground, to jump and soar through the air, and eventually land in the sand, that is my way of defying gravity. I equate gravitational pull to naysayers and people who attempt to hold you down and lock you to the earth. No one is going to lock me to the earth. I’m going to fly.

(01:35) – Celebrating black history is very important. I think that the conversation and the discussions are great. And I think that it’s amazing that we certainly celebrate black history. But I think that it certainly extends beyond just these 28 days. We need to get to a space where we are making this country a better space to live in. “No need for sight when you have a vision” is a mantra that I came up with. Eventually, I started to notice that it was much more than just something to stamp on a pamphlet or a website. It’s my life.

LG (02:19) – At the end of the day, it’s not our eyes that ultimately determine success. It’s our ability to see that vision to develop that plan, connect with the right people and do everything in your power to bring that vision into fruition. My ultimate goal as an athlete is to go to the Paralympic Games and to win a gold medal. Beyond athletics, my goal is to continue being an advocate, a mentor, an ally and be a guide for other people so that they can navigate down their own runway and sworn to their destiny.

For more Black History Month features, visit yurview.com/BlackHistoryMonth.