Health

8 Amazing Moments From the 2020 Paralympic Games That Show the Best in Sports

Just two days into the Tokyo Games, Americans Anastasia Pagonis and Gia Pergolini—both just 17 years old and Paralympic newcomers—secured gold medals in swimming and smashed world records in the process.

Pagonis won Team USA’s first gold of the Games when she finished first in the women’s 400-meter freestyle S11, clocking 4 minutes, 54.49 seconds, to beat the field by more than 10 seconds. (S11 is one of three classifications for vision impairment.) Pagonis’s time broke her own Paralympic record of 4:58.40, which she had set in the heat earlier in the day. It also eclipsed her world record of 4:56.16, which she achieved at the U.S. Paralympic Trials in June.

Shortly after Pagonis’s win, Pergolini’s performance of 1:04.64 in the women’s 100-meter backstroke S13 won her a gold medal and broke her own world record (1:05.05), which she had set in the prelim earlier in the day. (S13 is another classification for vision impairment.)

Swimming on the Paralympic stage fulfilled a childhood dream for Pergolini, who is a two-time World Para Athletics Championship medalist. “Since I was 12, I’ve been thinking about this, and seeing it all play out and come true.… It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she told Team USA of the chance to go to Tokyo.

The Paralympics were also thrilling for Pagonis, a rising social media star with 2 million followers on TikTok who recently opened up to SELF about her Tokyo experience and how she manages her mental health.

“I think about the pressure not as, Oh, my gosh, the whole world is watching me, what if I fail?” Pagonis told SELF. Instead, Pagonis says she frames it as, “The whole world is watching me, and they want me to succeed.”

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