Anastasia Pagonis, 17, breaks own world record, wins U.S.’ first gold medal of Tokyo Paralympics

Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games - Day Two
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In her first race of the first major international meet of her career, 17-year-old swimmer Anastasia Pagonis etched her name in the history books, breaking her own world record and winning the United States’ first gold medal of the Tokyo Paralympics.

Pagonis swam a Katie Ledecky-esque freestyle race of her own, finishing the 400m freestyle S11 in a time of 4:54.49 – 10.85 seconds ahead of the rest of the field – on Thursday night. She initially broke the Paralympic record earlier in the day when she won her heat in 4:58.40 – 26.6 seconds ahead of the runner-up.

Liesette Bruinsma of the Netherlands, the 2016 Paralympic champion and 2019 World champion at this distance, claimed silver in 5:05.34. The field also included China’s Cai Liwen, a medalist in event at the past two world championships, who took bronze in 5:07.56, and U.S. teammate McClain Hermes, the 2017 World champion, who was sixth on Thursday, nearly 35 seconds back from Pagonis.

Pagonis’ previous world record of 4:56.16 was set in the final of the U.S. Paralympic Trials in June; she set a world record for the first time in the prelims of that meet, going 4:59.28.

In the past two months, she has lowered Bruinsma’s 2019 world record of 5:02.19 by 7.7 seconds.

The Long Island, New York, native grew up playing soccer. When she began losing her vision at age 12 due to genetic retina disease and autoimmune retinopathy, her doctor suggested she try swimming.

Pagonis now has a massive social media following of 2 million on TikTok and 212,000+ on Instagram. She uses her wide reach to educate others about adaptive sports and the visually impaired community.

Her guide dog, Radar, whom she met one year ago, was initially trained for two years by the Guide Dog Foundation and the New York Islanders. The NHL team chose Radar as its first Puppy with a Purpose in 2018 and assisted in raising and socializing the Labrador Retriever before he was matched with Pagonis.

Pagonis has three events left in Tokyo: the 50m freestyle on Friday, Aug. 27, 200m IM on Monday, Aug. 30, and 100m free on Friday, Sept. 3.

Gia Pergolini, also 17 and competing in her first Paralympic Games, won the 100m backstroke S13 later in the evening, setting a world record of 1:04.64. The previous world record was Pergolini’s time of 1:05:05 from the morning’s prelims, when she broke nine-time world champion and eventual silver medalist Carlotta Gilli’s 1:05.56 that was set in May.

Pergolini was fifth in the 100m butterfly on Wednesday and has the 50m freestyle remaining on Sunday.

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin

Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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Lara Gut-Behrami wins Killington giant slalom, and the overall title race may be on


Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami rallied from third place after the first run for her 35th career World Cup victory, taking a giant slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Saturday.

Gut-Behrami, 31, earned her fifth World Cup giant slalom win and first in six years. She prevailed by .07 of a second over Italian Marta Bassino combining times from two windy runs. Sweden’s Sara Hector, the Olympic champion and first-run leader, ended up third.

“Last two years I’ve been getting better in GS again,” said Gut-Behrami, who won the GS at the last world championships in 2021. “Last year I was struggling with my health. I was all the time sick.”

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Gut-Behrami’s best events are downhill and super-G, so a strong start to the season in GS could put her on a path to winning the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. She previously lifted that crystal globe in 2016.

Reigning World Cup overall champ Mikaela Shiffrin, who previously placed second, third, fourth and fifth in Killington giant slaloms, finished 13th after winning the season’s first two races, slaloms in Finland last week. It marked her lowest World Cup GS finish since December 2019.

“[Finland] was a spectacular weekend,” Shiffrin, who has not had much recent GS training, said after her 10th-place opening run Saturday. “Every race is a different story.”

Shiffrin won all five World Cup slaloms in Killington dating to 2016 and will go for her 50th career World Cup slalom victory across all venues on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC and Peacock).

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