RIO DE JANEIRO — Lex Gillette (Raleigh, North Carolina) captured the first medal for Team USA at the 2016 Paralympic Games in a dramatic finish to Thursday’s morning session at Olympic Stadium. Gillette soared to his fourth-consecutive silver medal in the men’s long jump T11, adding to his collection from Athens, Beijing and London.
Rebounding from a slow start, the four-time Paralympian jumped to the top of the table in his fifth attempt with a leap of 6.44-meters. Brazil’s Ricardo Costa de Oliveira answered on his final attempt, jumping 6.52 to take the gold and electrify the home crowd.
“In my mind, this was my year,” Gillette said. “My first four jumps weren’t great, but once I got the fifth one I thought ‘I’m getting into a rhythm; I only have one more and I can further it again’ but I didn’t do it. Kudos to him for being able to rally and win the gold.”
The 31-year-old, who still holds the world record with a mark of 6.73, couldn’t break his silver streak but put the U.S. track & field team on the board with its first medal of the Games. He will compete again on Saturday in the men’s 100 T11 preliminary race.
“I’m definitely a little disappointed, but to get a medal for my country and be out here competing is an accomplishment,” Gillette said.
Tatyana McFadden (Clarksville, Maryland) began her quest for Paralympic history with Tuesday evening’s women’s 100 T53 preliminary race. The 10-time Paralympic track & field medalist will seek to spur a gold medal rush with Friday evening’s final as she aims to become the first athlete to sweep every distance in wheelchair racing. Hannah McFadden (Clarksville, Maryland) and Cheri Becerra-Madsen (Union, Nebraska) also qualified for the event final.
“Tomorrow’s going to be really tough so going into it I just have to stay relaxed and calm and just really believe in myself,” McFadden said.
In the heats of the men’s 100 T44, Jarryd Wallace (Athens, Georgia) qualified for the final in what will be one of the most anticipated events at the Paralympic Games. Wallace will face Paralympic champion Jonnie Peacock of Great Britain alongside U.S. teammate Jerome Singleton (Irmo, South Carolina).
TaLeah Williams (Norfolk, Nebraska) and Amy Watt (Palo Alto, California) made their Paralympic debuts in the women’s long jump T47 final, placing fifth and sixth, respectively. Two of the younger athletes on the U.S. team, 19-year-old Williams and 18-year-old Watt were appreciative of their first experience on the Games stage.
“I was a little nervous beforehand until I got inside and saw everyone,” Watt said. “It was really exciting to see so many people there. I didn’t do as well as I wanted to but it’s amazing just to be here.”
Defending Paralympic champion Angela Madsen (Long Beach, California) finished eighth with a season-best throw of 8.35 in the women’s shot put F57 final.
Visit USParalympics.org/Rio2016 for more information on Team USA at the Paralympic Games, including athlete bios, schedule and live streaming. Follow the U.S. Paralympic team on social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.