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With Games Delayed, Team USA Paralympian Gives Motivational Speeches


Time to check in with a would-be Olympian, an athlete who would have been in Tokyo this month if the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics hadn't been postponed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Today, we're catching up with one of Team USA's Paralympians.

LEX GILLETTE: My name is Lex Gillette. I am a four-time Paralympic medalist and world champion in the sport of Paralympic track and field. And I am currently training for the Tokyo Paralympic Games and hope to be there competing in the long jump. When I found out that the Paralympics were postponed, it was challenging.

I think from a mental standpoint, I had already been building up this movie in my mind. And I saw myself on the plane traveling to Tokyo, landing, getting to the Paralympic stadium. And I was scheduled to compete on the first day of track and field competition in the evening sessions - so bright lights, everybody's in the stadium, and they're watching. And I had all of those things in my mind. So to get that news that, you know, this isn't going to happen - it was, like, wow. You know, it kind of - it hits you in the chest.

It was certainly tough. But at the end of the day, you realize that it's just a postponing and not a cancellation. So I just had to shift some things and get ready to make some adaptations and some adjustments so that I'll still be able to get out there and rock and roll come Tokyo and summer of 2021.

FADEL: Gillette, who is blind, works as a motivational speaker in his time away from the track, and he has a naturally positive attitude about the pandemic and the fact that the Olympics and Paralympics have been postponed.

GILLETTE: I like to be challenged. And so for that, when I look at it, I'm, like, all right. You know, I'm not going to be beaten. You're not going to have a stranglehold on me. I'm going to figure out a way to continue to succeed because ultimately, at the end of the day, I have a goal and a vision, and that is - part of that is to go to Tokyo and stand on the top of that podium and get that gold medal around my neck.

FADEL: The pandemic has also affected Gillette's work. Now he's having to give motivational speeches on Zoom instead of in person.

GILLETTE: When I first started doing them during this time, it was challenging because I get so much from listening to the crowd and hearing them laugh, hearing them smile and all of those things. For me, as someone who's blind, I get a lot from that auditory feedback. So I was a little fearful, I guess, if you will, stepping into the virtual world because now most people are at home, so they're probably on mute. You got the dogs and kids in the background and stuff like that.

And so for me, it's, like, ugh, how am I going to get that same level of engagement? And what I've found is that I've now gotten the opportunity to literally listen to my own voice.

FADEL: And he thinks of that as a new opportunity for growth.

So what's motivating this motivational speaker to stay on track for the 2021 Paralympics? He's got a song for that.

GILLETTE: My go-to song right now in terms of working out is "0 To 100" by Drake.


DRAKE: (Rapping) I go zero to 100 real quick. Real quick. Whole squad on that real, zero to 100, real quick. Real quick. Real quick.

GILLETTE: The beat, the flow - it just - it gets you going. You have no choice but to get out there and to put forth your best effort.


FADEL: That's Lex Gillette, Team USA Track and Field Paralympian. You can watch him go for that gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics next summer. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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