The power of creativity and imagination ~How to expand your own vision~

The power of creativity and imagination ~How to expand your own vision~

Panasonic Center TOKYO held an online event series; "The power of creativity and imagination", where guests are invited to think together about various social issues. On Sunday, August 29th, 2021, a talk session titled "The power of creativity and imagination ~How to expand your own vision~" was held with Lex Gillette, Paralympian and Panasonic brand ambassador, and also world record holder in the men's long jump T11. (The T11 category is for track and field athletes with a visual impairment. A T11 athlete may be entirely without sight, or be able to perceive light, but have no ability to see the shape of a hand at any distance.)

On Friday, August 27th, two days before the session, Lex won a silver medal at the final of the men's long jump T11 held at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, his fifth consecutive one at the Paralympic Games representing the U.S.. He wore his medal proudly at the session.

Photo:Lex Gillette

Theme 1: About the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

The facilitator for the session was Leo Kominz, from Oregon in the U.S., who is the CEO of SEAMES, Inc. His first question was "With all the difficulties of the postponement of Tokyo 2020, what does it feel like right now to get to this point?"

Photo:Leo Kominz

Lex replied "When the pandemic happened, I wasn't able to train with my guide, Wesley Williams, for a good bit of time, and that was very challenging. It was hard not being able to talk to friends and other people directly." His reply showed the concerns of athletes over being unable to receive coaching, and the difficulties of daily life with COVID-19 for people with impairments.

But even so, he thoroughly enjoyed his time at the Paralympic Games. "It was a phenomenal and incredible time. It's really amazing that the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, despite everything, were able to pull off this absolutely wonderful Paralympic Games. I'm glad to have participated in another Paralympic Games, the entire experience was nothing short of amazing." He was unsparing in his praise of the Paralympics and wore his silver medal with obvious pride.

Theme 2: His career and experiences so far

The next session talked about Lex's background. He was diagnosed as having a detached retina when he was eight years old, and despite ten operations, was unable to recover his sight. "It must have been a real shock for you, how did you overcome it?" asked Mr. Kominz. Lex replied "My mom was always there for me. She told me that even if I lost my sight, life would still go on, and not to give up." You could feel that his mother was a major presence for Lex, always being close to him and raising his motivation.

Later on, Lex was introduced to track and field by a teacher at his school. He emphasized more than once that "Finding track and field was the most important thing in my life." Even though he is now a member of the Team USA, he says "I never imagined that this would happen. As I kept on going with track and field, so many doors opened up for me. I met lots of people and found amazing opportunities. I was able to get involved in track and field from a young age, and my teachers and coaches trained with me the whole time, from Monday to Friday. I'm still in touch with the people who helped me then. I was able to reach the next stage as an athlete, and to meet a wonderful partner to run at my side as my guide. It's because of their help that I've been able to find success as an athlete, even with my visual impairment." He spoke of how lucky he was, noting that there are other people who didn't have the same opportunities as he did.

Photo:Lex talking about his career

Theme 3: Lex's outlook on life and what we can learn from that

Lex has always cherished his mantra: NO NEED FOR SIGHT WHEN YOU HAVE A VISION. "I always say this to myself when I come up against a difficult situation. As long as I have my ideas and my belief, not being able to see isn't so important. If you have vision, you can see so many ways to achieve that. I've won silver medals at five Paralympic Games, but I'm always focused on doing my best more than the results. That's why I feel that I can maintain my motivation to always strive for more, though I'm not young for an athlete."

On being asked by Mr. Kominz about the secret to maintaining his motivation, Lex replied "I remind myself of the people who've helped me." Even if he didn't get the result he was expecting, recalling the faces of the people who've come with him this far makes him feel that he should "smile and be positive."

Lex has faced hardships and fears beyond words due to his inability to see, yet as he puts it, "Of course it's hard to walk in the dark, but being able to experience new things and go to new places lets me find new angles to the world. It's amazing to be able to find new surprises like that." In this way, he showed us how coming into contact with new things gives him the motivation to overcome fear, and to act positively.
Lex is much more than just a track and field athlete. He plays other sports as well, is a singer, a designer, and a motivational speaker. "I like soccer and baseball as well. I've also enjoyed dancing at home when COVID-19 meant I couldn't go out. Being in touch with a lot of people gives me ideas and inspiration." These words clearly showed how getting to know different worlds helps to enrich and broaden our lives.

Theme 4: The power of sports / Outlook on the future

When asked "What do you think the power of sports is?", Lex replied "With sports, it doesn't matter what language you speak, where you're from, if you have different culture or backgrounds. When we're in the stadium, we all speak the same language of sports." Next, when asked about what influence sports have for people in difficult times such as in recent years, Lex said "For Tokyo 2020, people from all over the world gave their support to athletes. Though there weren't any spectators in the seats, we could feel and hear their support. That was a big factor in helping us forget the difficulties of the pandemic. Maybe that's the real power of sports." That was his take on the power of sports given through the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Sports have a universal power: it brought together people throughout the world under their banner to overcome hardships and make the Paralympic Games possible, and provide the joy of cheering others on, and a sense of gratitude. This precious insight was all the more telling for having come from Lex, an athlete who has a surety of vision and who has reached where he is by working hand in hand with others.

Photo:left:Lex right:Leo

Having vision is important for everyone

Lex was most polite in answering each of the many questions fielded to him during the Q&A session.

To a question about vision in sports life, he said "It's important to make small milestones toward your ultimate goal, and to achieve these one by one." When asked about how he overcomes difficult times, Lex said "When I'm struggling or feeling down, I always come back to working toward my vision. You've got to make progress by seeing failures as a chance to learn." In this way, he showed the importance of having a vision for everyone, making a highly fruitful question and answer session.

Summing up at the end, Lex said "I'm so glad everyone listened in today. I wish there was more time to speak, but the main point I wanted to get across is about having a vision. If you have a vision, even if you're in a bad situation, you'll be able to see a way through, and I think it's a wonderful opportunity to gain that way of seeing things, not just for us Paralympians but also for the audience too. I appreciate all the support given to me, to the Paralympic Games, and to all the other athletes."

Mr. Kominz, as the facilitator, said that the session was "Definitely a major plus for my life", and hoped that it gave new perspectives and encouragement to the people who participated.