Blind teen swimmer from Long Island wins Paralympic gold

TOKYO (WABC) -- All of the two-hour practices, nine times a week are paying off for 17-year-old Anastasia Pagonis from Garden City.

She just won the gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle at the Tokyo Paralympics and also beat her own world record.

"I was beside myself my heart rate was over 120," swim coach Marc Danin said.

Danin, of Islander Aquatics, is Anastasia's coach.

Because of COVID-19 safety protocols, he couldn't travel with her to Japan, but he's coaching from afar and knew she'd prevail.

"I said from the beginning when she said that this was her goal I told her 'you're going to win the gold,'" Danin said.

Marc was the only swim coach who agreed to take on Anastasia who is blind.

Agenetic disorder coupled with an autoimmune disease caused her to lose her sight at 14 and swimming became her salvation.

"Right when I got in the water I fell in love with it I was like 'this is for me,'" Anastasia said.

She's also a TikTok star and uses the platform to raise awareness.

"Just showing everybody, 'hey, this is what blind is, what blind looks like and this is the things I can do being blind,'" Anastasia said.

Like being a competitive swimmer.

"My job as a coach for almost 30 years is to make my swimmers happy. To see the joy on her face gave me complete joy," Danin said.

Already a champion of character, Anastasia is now also a gold medal Paralympian.

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When Anastasia Pagonis of Long Island lost vision at age 14, she thought her life was over. Three years later, the swimmer is more confident than ever and headed to the Tokyo Paralympics.



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