Anastasia Pagonis
Photo via @anastasia_k_p on Instagram.

A 17-year-old swimmer from Long Island is competing in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games this week.

Anastasia Pagonis, who is blind, is swimming in the women’s 400-meter freestyle and women’s 100-meter freestyle events. The games began on Tuesday, Aug. 24.

“If someone told me during that dark eight months I had [when I lost my vision] that I would be competing in the Paralympics two years later, I would not believe them. I would’ve laughed right in their face,” she said in a promotional Olympics video telling her story.

Pagonis has genetic retina disease and autoimmune retinopathy, which caused her to begin losing her eyesight at 11 years old and lose it completely at age 14. However, once she got her guide dog, Radar, she began swimming and decided to train for the Paralympic Games.

In June, the high school senior was featured on NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt and interviewed about Radar.

“He’s changed my life,” she said in the interview. “I didn’t have any freedom or independence before him, and now that I have him, I feel like a totally different person.”

During the Paralympic trials, when she qualified for Team USA, she broke a paralympic swimming record, NBC reported. Pagonis also has millions of TikTok followers, and she uses the platform to educate the public about the blind community and paralympic sports.

For more information and to view the Tokyo Paralympics swimming events schedule, click here.

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