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Blind long jumper hopes to bring home gold at Tokyo Paralympics

Lex Gillette long jump
Posted at 6:20 AM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-22 11:26:09-04

SAN DIEGO — When the summer games in Tokyo come to an end, the top athletes with disabilities from around the world will head to Tokyo for the Paralympics.

Blind long jumper Lex Gillette, who trains at the Elite Athletes Training Center in Chula Vista, will be a part of the games for the fifth time.

Gillette, 36, lost his eyesight when he was 8 years old and began long jumping when he was 15.

"That came out of a physical fitness test we had to participate in," he said.

When it came to long jumping, Gillette admits he was hesitant at first.

"Someone asks you to run as fast as you can without being able to see anything, that's really scary, and it takes a lot of trust," Gillette said.

Lex Gillette
Blind Paralympic athlete Lex Gillette poses for photos at the 2016 Team USA Media Summit Tuesday, March 8, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The good news is he was able to conquer his fear and is now one of the best long jumpers in the world. In fact, he is the world record holder in the event at 6.73 meters — more than 22 feet.

He competed in his first Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004 and will be now be competing in his fifth this year — and, of course, he is hoping to bring home gold.

"Fortunately, I'm still healthy, strong, and fast. I'm jumping far right now, so yes, it's definitely going to be a lot of fun as all the games are different," Gillette said.

Lex Gillette
Lex Gillette of the United States, right, jumps during the Men's Long Jump F11 final at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games Monday Sept. 15, 2008 in Beijing. Lex won second place. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Obviously, Tokyo will be different due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I just hope that everyone does their part and can stay socially distanced. I hope everyone follows all of the rules so that everyone can compete," he said.

When Gillette heads to Tokyo in a few weeks, he goes with one goal in mind. He has won four silver medals at the Paralympic Games, but he has never won the gold.

Paralympics - Paralympian Guides
Lex Gillette talks with his guide Wesely Williams after competing in the men's long jump T11 final at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. During the summer Paralympics, guides are used in cycling, equestrian, football-5-a-side, triathlon and track and field events. (David A. Barnes/University of Georgia via AP)

"I train Monday through Friday, three, sometimes four hours a day, in hopes of winning that gold medal," Gillette said. "So, I feel that I am prepared; I know that I am prepared. The only thing left to do is go to the Games, don't put too much pressure on myself and do my absolute best and have fun in the process."

This story was originally published by Steve Smith on Scripps station KGTV in San Diego.