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Elexis Gillette, a 2007 graduate of ECU, soared into a second place finish in the long jump event at the 2008 Paralympic games in Beijing, China. (Photo by Chris Holzgraf of Huntington Images)

Gillette Wins Silver Medal at Beijing Paralympics

By Christine Neff

Elexis Gillette, Paralympic athlete and 2007 graduate of East Carolina University, came back from the Beijing games this September with a silver medal and two new American records.

“I was very happy to go out there and perform the way I did,” said the 23-year-old Raleigh native. “It gives me a lot more motivation to get better at it, and I’m already thinking about the next time.”

The Paralympics are elite sport events for athletes with disabilities. Gillette, who has a visual impairment, has participated in two Paralympic games.

In Athens in 2004, while a student in ECU’s Recreation and Leisure Studies program, he won a silver medal in the long jump event.

At this year’s games, Gillette won a second silver medal in long jump and placed fifth overall in the triple jump, setting new American records for blind athletes in both events.

He spoke, matter-of-factly, about his win. “I wasn’t really nervous. I just got out there on the track and started jumping,” he said. “I scratched on my first jump, but my second jump was good. As I kept jumping, I kept getting better. On my fifth jump, I won silver.”

Proud of his achievements, Gillette said he will never forget the experience of competing in Beijing. “It was unlike anything I’ve ever done before, from the opening ceremonies to the end,” he said.

Gillette said crowds filled the “Bird’s Nest,” the Beijing stadium where the opening ceremonies and track and field events took place. “They were really energetic inside the stadium, and when China came in, the place went nuts,” he said.

Now back in the United States, Gillette said he will take a few weeks off from training before starting to recruit sponsors and gear up for the next big event. Already, he has the London 2012 games on his mind.

“I’m going to compete in London. If you like it as much as I do, then you’ll continue to go out there and put in the time and effort to get what you want. I feel like I’ll be even better in the future,” he said.

For more information about Elexis Gillette, visit his web site,

This page originally appeared in the Nov. 3, 2008 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at