Raleigh native running towards Paralympic gold
Posted April 13, 2012
Updated April 14, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — There are very few track athletes that have a resume like Raleigh-native Lex Gillette. He holds national and world records - all without being able to see.
The multi-talented Gillette recently returned to his old Athens Drive High School track as he continues to prepare for this summer's Paralympics in London. It was on that very track a decade ago when he realized, that despite being blind, he has a gift.
"My favorite event would be the long jump,” Gillette said. “One of my coaches gave me audible sounds as to where I needed to run. (He) would yell and clap and I would follow that sound."
Only one year after graduating high school, Gillette jumped his way to a silver medal in the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, Greece.
"It was definitely overwhelming," he said. Jennings: Raleigh native vying for Paralympic gold
Gillette has come a long way since he was eight-years-old. That's when doctor told him, after multiple eye surgeries, they would not be able to fix his detached retinas. Soon after, he became completely blind.
"The biggest obstacle would be socially, feeling like people are looking at you awkwardly,” Gillette said. “It took me a few years to get it in my mind that I could still achieve different goals."
Off the track, Gillette has written music and excelled in beep baseball - a version of baseball for the visually impaired. Last year, his team won a national title after his game-winning hit.
On the track, Gillette is among the best blind American sprinters. Last year, he broke a 19-year old world record in the long jump.
Now living in southern California at the US track training site, Gillette is chasing another dream - his first gold medal in the Paralympics. There, he will be running and jumping in multiple events.
The final hurdle for Gillette in pursuing his dream is getting his family there. Paralympic athletes’ families have to pay their own way to the games in London, so at a track meet Saturday at UNC, Gillette is hoping to raise money for his relatives to travel to the Games.
"The people who got me to the point where I am right now, it would be incredible for them to share that moment with me," he said.