US teens Anastasia Pagonis and Gia Pergolini win gold at Paralympics

From roommates to Olympic gold medalists.

A pair of 17-year-old U.S. Paralympic athletes — Anastasia Pagonis and Gia Pergolini — won gold and broke world records in their respective swimming events in Tokyo on Thursday. The Summer Games mark the duo’s Paralympic debuts.

Pagonis finished first in the women’s S11 400m freestyle, the first U.S. gold medal of the Tokyo Paralympics. With a time of 4:54.49, she broke her own world record that she previously set in the event at the U.S. Paralympic Swimming Trials in June.

The S11 is for athletes with low visual acuity or no perception of light. While competing, athletes wear blackened goggles. Pagonis has a genetic disease that caused her to start losing her vision at age 12, which she previously revealed on social media.

Pergolini, meanwhile, set the world record for the S13 100-meter backstroke twice in the same day. She crushed the record in the preliminary event (1:05.05), before she did it again in the final, decreasing her time to 1:04.64.

The S13 group is for athletes who are visually impaired. The group is less visually impaired than classes S12 and S11.

Pagonis, who’s been documenting her experience inside Tokyo’s Olympic Village (including the cardboard beds), shared a TikTok video dancing with her gold medal.

“My back hurting from carrying my gold medal,” she wrote over the clip. Pagonis has two million followers on TikTok, and over 221,000 Instagram followers.

Pagonis and Pergolini celebrated their monumental victories with Coke Zeroes and “two ice creams, not one.”

Pergolini later took to Instagram to reveal she plans to make a campaign for the Paris Olympics in 2024. She also gushed about her friendship with Pagonis in a post-race interview.

“We’re roommates. We’ve been spending lots of time together these past couple weeks and we love each other so much. We treat each other like sisters and just supporting one another… We just love each other and we love supporting each other,” Pergolini told NBC Sports.

“My queen,” Pagonis wrote on Instagram under a clip of Pergolini’s interview.

Pagonis is scheduled to swim in three more events in Tokyo — the 50m freestyle, 100m freestyle, 200m individual medley, while Pergolini will compete in the 50m freestyle. 

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