‘You can do anything you put your mind to’: Blind swimmer goes for gold at the Tokyo Paralympics
The Paralympics officially got underway in Tokyo and a blind swimmer from Garden City is going for the gold.
Anastasia Pagonis says the swimming pool is a “place I feel free.”
Pagonis set three United States records and two world records at the Paralympics trials in May.
She says she was thrilled to earn a spot on Team USA.
“I get to swim for my country, I get to put on a cap that says Team USA,” Pagonis says. “That’s insane to me.”
Pagonis was only 11 when a genetic disorder caused her immune system to attack her retinas and she started to lose her vision.
A few years later, she was blind and said she wanted to commit suicide.
“I don’t think people can comprehend what that’s like unless they actually go through it,” Pagonis says.
She says it took a while to find a coach who wanted to train her.
Marc Danin, of Islanders Aquatics, gave her the motivation to swim again.
“When I first got her, I did see some talent there,” Danin says.
Pagonis says losing her sight took away everything she had known so it was a lot to learn again.
She also had to learn how to swim with blackout goggles that block the light she can see, and how to use tappers to know when to turn and to stay straight .
Anastasia Pagonis will be competing in four Paralympic events.
“I’m showing other teenagers, other teenage girls, anyone with a disability that you can do it,” Pagonis says. “You can do anything you put your mind to.”