The Team USA track and field athlete competed on Aug. 27 at the Tokyo Paralympics with a silver medal-winning long jump of 6.17 meters (20.24 feet), finishing behind only China’s Di Dongdong (6.47 meters for the gold medal win).
Tokyo marked Gillette’s fifth Paralympics.
Over the years, he has won four Paralympic silver medals in the long jump and is the only blind jumper to eclipse the 22-foot mark thanks to his world record jump of 22 feet and 2 inches.
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Following his big win in Tokyo, he shared some wise words with the Paralympic Games.
"For the future athlete out there or a child with a disability, I would say to No. 1, believe in yourself," Gillette told the Paralympics Games. "No. 2, at the end of the day, you decide what you can do. And no one else decides that. You make that decision and it doesn't matter what the rest of the world says. It doesn't matter what they think you should and should not do, or what they think you can and cannot do. You go out there and you experience life, and you try new things."
A few months ago, the athlete sat down with NBC 7 anchor Steven Luke to talk about his training for the Paralympic stage on our Olympic Dreams: San Diego to Tokyo podcast. You can listen to Gillette’s episode below.
Listen/Subscribe to NBC 7’s Olympic Dreams: San Diego to Tokyo podcast wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. On each episode, NBC 7 News Today anchor Steven Luke will sit down with athletes in their prime, each with their sights set on one thing: representing Team USA in Tokyo this summer. How will they achieve their Olympic dreams?
Gillette lost sight as a child, but he never let that hold him back.
He trademarked the phrase, "No need for sight when you have a vision," and this mantra has followed him everywhere he goes.
While his achievements on the track are impressive, his attitude off the track has earned him respect from fans and fellow athletes across the world.
When he’s not jumping, he serves as a motivational speaker, inspiring others to push past personal hurdles and tap their full potential.
Earlier this year, Gillette was chosen as one of 10 Team USA athletes to motivate kids through a learning series called “Heart of a Champion,” a partnership with NBC Olympics and the grade-school communication app, Class Dojo. The episodes touched on important concepts like courage, perseverance, and focus.
Gillette’s lesson for kids was all about accepting feedback from mentors and using it to help make yourself better.
As a blind jumper, Gillette relies on the voice and clapping from a guide who stands at the long jump launch board as he competes. So for him, feedback plays a particularly important role in his life and career.
Gillette was just 8 years old when he started suffering from retinal detachment. Despite many surgeries, he eventually lost his sight. Again, feedback from those around him became important to his growth.
"After I had lost my sight, I was just thrust into a whole new world and literally trying to figure everything out from how to achieve day-to-day tasks, how to finish homework and classwork," Gillette said.
He wants kids to know the importance of feedback whether it’s in sports or school. Without feedback from his guide and coaches, Gillette said he wouldn’t be able to accomplish the things that have helped propel him to greatness in his sport.
The Tokyo Paralympics are happening now through Sept. 5. The competition features around 4,500 athletes from more than 160 countries. Here’s everything you need to know about how to watch the games.