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Beijing Bound

Elexis Gillette, a 2007 ECU graduate, prepares for the 2008 Paralympics to be held in Beijing, China, in September. (Photo by Chris Holzgraf of Huntington Images)

ECU Graduate Aims For Paralympic Gold

By Christine Neff

Elexis Gillette vowed to “up” his game when he won a silver medal in the long jump at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens.

“After getting that medal, I thought, ‘Man, I got to get first,” he said recently from the Olympic Training Center in California. “When you want something that bad, you put in all the work that you can. That’s what keeps me going.”

Gillette, who has a visual impairment, has been an international competitor in Paralympic track and field events since he was a student in ECU’s Recreation and Leisure Studies Program. He graduated from ECU in 2007.

Paralympics are elite sport events for athletes with disabilities such as amputations, cerebral palsy, visual impairment, spinal cord injuries and intellectual disabilities.

More than 3,800 of these athletes participated in the 2004 games. This September, they will travel to Beijing, China, to compete for medals in the same venues as Olympic athletes.

For Gillette, it’s an opportunity to reach a goal that has propelled him since his first shot at a Paralympic medal – winning gold.

In January, he moved to the Olympic training center to make use of the world-class facilities and expertise. Now, he spends several hours on the track at least four days a week, and uses time off to lift weights and condition his body.

He has added several events to his roster since 2004. In Beijing, he will compete in the long jump (he took silver in 2004), triple jump and 100- and 200-meter races. A sighted guide assists him on the track.

The Raleigh native anticipates a strong showing, especially in the long jump.

“I’m definitely trying to get gold,” he said. “At this point in my training, I feel really good. Hopefully, you know, I’ll win.”

Gillette began running in middle school but said his experience at East Carolina University helped shape his athletic career. “I had so many people in my corner. Even if they didn’t know too much about my sport, people were always willing to help,” he said.

To learn more about Gillette, visit his Web site,

This page originally appeared in the Aug. 29, 2008 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at