ELGIN, Texas (KXAN) — Under the shade of a barn in Elgin, the sounds of summer are broken up by the clanking of iron.
Gabe Gigout is working out with his dad and trainer, Shane Gigout, preparing for powerlifting competitions around the world.
“It’s really awesome because not only is he just my coach, but he’s my dad. And we’ve always been really close, we’ve always been like friends.”
In late May, and with a lift of 275 pounds, the 15-year-old set the American record and won the International Powerlifting Federation world bench press championship in Rodby, Denmark for the 114-116 division.
“It’s awesome to get the records, to get the medals and everything, but my biggest thing is…I just want to encourage people. And that’s where I take most of my pride, is being able to encourage people and being a light to others.”
That light comes from Gabe competing in non-disabled divisions, despite being born with spina bifida and not having any use of his legs.
“Me and my dad were talking, and he said we can go into the Paralympics…and I asked him, I said, ‘can we compete non-disabled as long as we can? As long as I’m able to, can we?’
“The reason why is because I think that would be, my goal, as far as this, is to encourage people, disabled or not, to encourage people. And I think that me doing it non-disabled in a wheelchair is a bigger inspiration because nobody expects a guy in a wheelchair to go outside and start lifting weights.”
“The doctors began to see a change, and they started to call him the light of the NICU,” said his mother Kathy. “He was just such a light in there, even as young as that, six weeks old.”
But how bright that light would shine was in doubt when Kathy found out about her son’s condition.
“I’m carrying this child, and I don’t even know what’s gonna happen when I give birth, and it’s a scary thing. But I relied on my faith in Christ and scriptures to get me through that.”
Once Gabe was born, thought, there were countless surgeries and a six week stay in pediatric intensive care.
“My husband says it was the most devastating thing for him to see because, actually, Gabriel’s legs were almost, they looked detached…his feet were touching his face.”
“For a long time, for years, I went through this thing of ‘why me? Why do I have to deal with this? Why?’” Gabe said. “I don’t want anyone to ever feel the way I felt as far as why me goes. I want people to be able to say, ‘You know what, I don’t care what I’m in, I’m coming out of this. I’m not just gonna stay and buy into this situation, I’m going straight out of it.’”
And that is where Gabe’s powerlifting comes in, traveling the world and competing against able-bodied athletes, defying the odds and inspiring others.
“It honestly is just a God thing because no one can explain it. He shouldn’t be sitting up, he shouldn’t be doing the things he’s doing and he definitely shouldn’t be lifting weights. He doesn’t have all of his spinal cord.”
“It’s not so much that I’ve accepted my situation,” Gabe said, “but I know that no matter what comes my way, I’m not gonna let it get me down. Because if I’m already in that situation, I might as well go through it instead of just wallow in it.”
Gabe plans to compete in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. For Gabe to compete in these competitions, he has to pay his own way. If you’d like to help out, you can visit his website.