Pagonis and Pergolini Pick Up a Pair of Gold Medals and World Records for Team USA
by Matt Whewell
Gia Pergolini (left) and Anastasia Pagonis (right) on the podium at Tokyo Aquatic Center.
TOKYO — In their first Paralympic debut, Anastasia Pagonis (Long Island, New York) and Gia Pergolini (Atlanta, Georgia) collected Team USA’s first gold medals from inside the Tokyo Aquatic Center with a pair of world record performances on the second day of competition at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Pagonis, who set a Paralympic record earlier in the day, was the lone racer to break the 5-minute barrier during the women’s 400m freestyle S11. The 17-year-old led the race from start to finish with her closest competitor touching the wall more than 10 seconds behind her 4:54.49 world record time.
Teammate McClain Hermes (Dacula, Georgia), swimming in her second Paralympic Games, finished sixth in 5:29.24 and dropped 10 seconds from her morning qualifying time.
Pergolini, with a world record already in hand from the morning session, watched Pagonis’ celebration from inside the ready room prior to her women’s 100m backstroke S13 final. The high schooler used that as motivation to lower her record by .5 seconds to 1:04.64 to give the Paralympic village roommates a pair of records and gold medals to take back with them.
Three-time Para swimming veteran, Colleen Young (St. Louis, Missouri), finished eighth with a 1:09.89.
Elizabeth Marks (Colorado Springs, Colorado), a newly minted three-time Paralympic medalist, was the top U.S. finisher in the women’s 200m individual medley SM6 by finishing fourth clocking in at 3:02.42. Her teammate and another three-time Paralympian, Sophia Herzog (Fairplay, Colorado), touched the wall in 3:07.98 for seventh place.
Additional U.S. swimmers that competed during the evening session were Zach Shattuck (Mt. Airy, Maryland) and Mikaela Jenkins (Evansville, Indiana). Shattuck, swimming in his first Paralympics finals, went 2:52.52 and placed eighth in the men’s 200m individual medley SM6. Jenkins, also swimming in her first Paralympics, finished in 1:23.89 for the eighth-fastest time in the women’s 100m breaststroke SB9.
Other Team USA performances from the day include Summer Schmit’s (Stillwater, Minnesota) 1:25.91 for a 10-place finish in the women’s 100m breaststroke SB9. Hannah Aspden (Raleigh, N.C.) and MeiMei White (Orlando, Florida) stopped the clock at 1:32.40 and 1:32.84, respectively, in the women's 100-meter breaststroke SB8 and finished eleventh and twelfth respectively.
The third full day of racing continues tomorrow. Preliminary heats are scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. EST and finals at 4 a.m. EST. All races will be live streamed through NBCOlympics.com, on Peacock and through the NBC Sports app. A full schedule of events is available here.
TEAM USA MEDALS (Day 2)
- Anastasia Pagonis (women’s 400m freestyle S11)
- Gia Pergolini (women’s 100m backstroke S13)
If you told me this a few years ago, I wouldn’t even think I’d be alive so just being here and being able to have this experience and this opportunity - unbelievable. I love being able to bond with my teammates and have this experience with all of them. I think supporting and cheering on my teammates is super important.
It’s surreal. I’ve been thinking about this moment for the past five years. This past year, I was thinking about it day and night. There are so many emotions finally seeing all my hard work pay off. Representing my country and getting them a gold medal is just crazy.
Yesterday’s race was just as much fun as today’s race. I had a really nice swim earlier in the morning, and I’m happy that I was able to swim tonight for Team USA.