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17-Year-Old Breaks Her Own World Record, Wins Team USA's First Gold Medal at Tokyo Paralympics

People logo People 8/26/2021 Nicholas Rice
OIS/Joel Marklund/Shutterstock © Provided by People OIS/Joel Marklund/Shutterstock

Anastasia Pagonis won Team USA's first gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics!

On Thursday, the 17-year-old swimmer competed in the first major international meet of her career and bested her own world record.

Taking place at the Tokyo Aquatic Center on the second day of the Paralympic competitions, Pagonis took part in the women's 400m freestyle S11, finishing in a time of 4:54.49 — 10.85 seconds ahead of the rest of her fellow athletes.

During the swimming event, Liesette Bruinsma of the Netherlands finished second with 5:05.34, while China's Cai Liwen scored bronze in 5:07.56.

"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 — unbelievable," Pagonis said after her victory. "I love being able to bond with my teammates and have this experience with all of them."

"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 — unbelievable," Anastasia Pagonis said © OIS/Joel Marklund/Shutterstock "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 — unbelievable," Anastasia Pagonis said

The Long Island native added, "I think supporting and cheering on my teammates is super important."

a child swimming in the water: Marcus Brandt/picture alliance via Getty Images © Provided by People Marcus Brandt/picture alliance via Getty Images

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Pagonis' teammate, McClain Hermes, meanwhile, finished sixth in 5:29.24 and veteran attendee Colleen Young finished in eighth place.

Pagonis' previous world record of 4:56.16 was accomplished in the final of the U.S. Paralympic Trials in June, NBC Sports reported.

Looking ahead, Pagonis has three events left to compete in while in Tokyo — the 50m freestyle on Aug. 27, 200m individual medley on Aug. 30, and 100m freestyle on Sept. 3.

Also on Thursday, Para swimmer Gia Pergolini won Team USA's second gold medal after her village roommate Pagonis' race, winning in the women's 100m backstroke S13.

To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. The Tokyo Paralympics air on NBC until September 5.

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