Gia Pergolini Sets New World Record - Twice - in U.S. Paralympic Team Trials Debut
by Heather Ward
MINNEAPOLIS – Records fell on the opening day of the 2020 U.S. Paralympic Team Trials – Swimming as athletes dominated the pool, smashing both American and world records in the day’s preliminary and final races. While athletes vie to represent the United States at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, the competitive spirit matched the camaraderie and passion the athletes shared rejoining their teammates after a year-long postponement due to COVID-19.
Paralympic hopeful Gia Pergolini (Roswell, Georgia) dominated the day in women’s 100m backstroke S13 setting two new world records to end the day as one to watch heading into the next two days of competition. The 17-year-old last won gold at the 2017 World Para Swimming World Series and now has her sights set on making her first U.S. Paralympic Team.
Claiming four records on the first day of trials, two-time Paralympic medalist Ellie Marks (Prescott Valley, Arizona) broke the Americas record in both the 100m backstroke S6 (1.21.56) and the 50m butterfly S6 (37.06). Paralympian Hannah Aspden (Raleigh, North Carolina) joined the American record books clocking in a time of 1:09.48 in the 100m backstroke S9.
13-time Paralympic gold medalist Jessica Long (Baltimore, Maryland), maintained her storied excellence, capturing the women’s 100 breaststroke SB7 (1:34.18) and 100m back SB7 (1:20.11). Hometown hero Mallory Weggemann (Eagan, Minn) took home a pair of first-place finishes in the 100 back S7 (1:22.68), and the 50m fly S7 (33.95).
Zach Shattuck (Mt. Airy, Maryland) is competing to make his first U.S. Paralympic Team and is off to a great start after recording top finishes and setting a pair of American records in the 100m breaststroke SB6 (1:24.19) and 50m fly S6 (33.33) respectively.
In his first Para swimming trials appearance, Morgan Ray (St. Augustine, Florida) had a breakout debut, taking second in the 100 breaststroke SB6 (1:25.78) and third in the 50m fly 6S (37.87). Robert Griswold (Freehold, New Jersey) also set an Americas record in the 100m backstroke S8 (1:06.97).
For the first time in Paralympic history, all swimming events are available to stream live on NBC’s Peacock, NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app. Team USA will return to competition with preliminary sessions on the penultimate day tomorrow morning beginning at 9 a.m. MT. Check out the full results here:
“Being a member of Team USA in Tokyo would be remarkable. This would be my third Paralympic Games and I think these Games in particular are extra special because we will unite as one when we get to Tokyo. After the year that we’ve all experienced, not just here domestically in the U.S, but around the world, we need it more than ever. I won gold at the London 2012 Games and I have not sat atop the Paralympic podium since September 2, 2012. This has been a long fight and battle and I'm so proud of what my coach Steve and I have done, and I'm aiming for gold in Tokyo. I think that at the end of the day, that's motivated by the knowledge that when I get behind those starting blocks and when I hopefully get atop of that podium, it represents something so much larger than myself.”
“Honestly, it’s just a dream come true. I’ve always wanted this. I’ve been training for this ever since sophomore year. It means so much to me, for my family, and everyone back home, and my club. I’d like to thank all of them so much for their hard work and dedication to help get me here. I’m just overwhelmed.”
“It’s been five years coming so it's really nice to be swimming fast with Team USA this weekend. This past year has been super spotty. It got consistent in about the fall and we had a swim meet in April in Lewisville and I swam pretty well there, and that was a good indicator of where I was leading up into this meet. [The NBC live coverage] is so huge, especially since we're spectatorless here at trials, that my friends and my family can be able to watch and the broader public. Hopefully some little girl is watching with a disability and gets super inspired this weekend and is going to be here in three years for the Paris 2024 trials.”
“I feel great. I've been dreaming about this for a really long time and seeing it play out is really nice. It gives me a lot of confidence and it gives me support going into Tokyo and just representing my country and getting that world record for my country is a really great experience. I was a little disappointed that it was postponed last year, but I'm happy because I feel really strong and I trained really well for this moment. Definitely matured mentally and practiced on how I end my race and keeping a good pace. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It's just so surreal. I have to thank my coach and my mom and my parents for it, it’s just crazy.”