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Long Island’s Paralympian

Long Island’s very own Paralympic champion sets an example for young teens.

By: Maya Hoffman

The Paralympics is an international sports game for those who are physically disabled, making the dream of winning an olympic medal accessible for all. The Paralympics first took place in 1960. Since then, they follow a four year cycle. During this year the World Federation of ex-servicemen, an International Working group on sport for the Disabled, was formed to research the problems of playing sports for those with impairment. The first winter paralympics was in 1976 in Sweden. This year in the 2021 Paralympics Long Island was lucky enough to have their very own Gold Medal Champion, Anastasia Pagonis. 

Anastasia is a 17 year old teen from Long Island who recently blew up on the internet after winning her first gold medal. The 17 year old swimmer is blind, but everyone can see how bright her future is. At 12 years old, the swimming champion began to lose her vision due to Genetic Retinal Disease and autoimmune retinopathy. Genetic/Inherited retinal disease is a group of rare blinding conditions caused by 1 of more than 270 genes; some experience gradual loss of vision leading to blindness or some may be born blind. Autoimmune retinopathy is an umbrella term used for degenerative diseases that cause inflammation from circulating autoantibodies against the retina causing blindness. Anastasia’s parents first noticed her vision was taking a turn when she could not stay straight in lanes of the swimming pool, she told her dad “I’m not seeing” and shortly after she became blind. Pagonis and her family tell the media swimming is her outlet after years of struggle. Her passion for swimming transformed into success as she won a gold medal for the S11 400 meter freestyle swim in the tokyo paralympics. The S11 is the classification that means she has very low visual activity and/or no light perception. The fame surrounding Anastasia and her medal is being put to good use. 

The teenager is using her TikTok and Instagram platforms to advocate for the visually impaird and educate others on the paralympics. Her and her guide dog Radar and teaching others about what it is like to be blind. She teaches them how she goes about her daily routine such as: swimming without bumping the wall, filming her tiktox, doing her makeup and how her phone aids her in daily life skills. Pagnois is setting an amazing example for the youth that even with obstacles in your way you can still accomplish your dreams. Anastasia, despite being a gold medalist, has much more to shoot for and the whole world is excited to watch her conquer her goals.