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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Summer McIntosh breaks 400m individual medley world record, extends historic week

Summer McIntosh

Canadian swimmer Summer McIntosh broke her second world record this week, lowering the 400m individual medley mark on Saturday.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old who trains in Sarasota, Florida, clocked 4 minutes, 25.87 seconds at the Canadian Championships in Toronto.

She took down Hungarian Katinka Hosszu‘s world record of 4:26.36 from the 2016 Rio Olympics. Before Saturday, McIntosh had the fourth-fastest time in history of 4:28.61.

“It’s always nice to set world records,” McIntosh said.

On Tuesday, McIntosh broke the 400m freestyle world record, becoming the youngest swimmer to break a world record in an individual Olympic event since Katie Ledecky in 2013.

McIntosh also this week became the fourth-fastest woman in history in the 200m individual medley and the eighth-fastest woman in history in the 200m butterfly.

In each of her four races this week, she also broke the world junior record as the fastest woman in history under the age of 19.

She is entered to swim the 200m free on the meet’s final day on Sunday. She is already the eighth-fastest woman in history in that event.

McIntosh, whose mom swam the 1984 Olympic 200m fly and whose sister competed at last week’s world figure skating championships, placed fourth in the Tokyo Olympic 400m free at age 14.

Last summer, she won the 200m fly and 400m IM at the world championships, becoming the youngest individual world champion since 2011.

This summer, she could be at the center of a showdown in the 400m free at the world championships with reigning world champion Ledecky and reigning Olympic champion Ariarne Titmus of Australia. They are the three fastest women in history in the event.

Around age 7, McIntosh transcribed Ledecky quotes and put them on her wall.

MORE: McIntosh chose swimming and became Canada’s big splash

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Hilary Knight leads new-look U.S. women’s hockey roster for world championship

Hilary Knight

Hilary Knight headlines a U.S. women’s hockey roster for this month’s world championship that lacks some of the biggest names from last year’s Olympic silver-medal team. Changes have been made as the U.S. looks to end losing streaks to Canada, both overall and in major finals.

The full roster is here. Worlds start Wednesday in Brampton, Ontario, and run through the gold-medal game on April 16.

It was already known that the team would be without stalwart forwards Kendall Coyne Schofield, who plans to return to the national team after having her first child this summer, and Brianna Decker, who announced her retirement last month.

Notable cuts include the No. 1 goalies from the last two Olympics: Alex Cavallini, who returned from Christmas childbirth for the tryout camp this past week, and Maddie Rooney, the breakout of the 2018 Olympic champion team.

Cavallini, 31, was bidding to become the first player to make an Olympic or world team after childbirth since Jenny Potter, who played at the Olympics in 2002, 2006 and 2010 as a mom, plus at several world championships, including less than three months after childbirth in 2007.

Forward Hannah Brandt, who played on the top line at last year’s Olympics with Knight and Coyne Schofield, also didn’t make the team.

In all, 13 of the 25 players on the team are Olympians, including three-time Olympic medalists forward Amanda Kessel and defender Lee Stecklein.

The next generation includes forward Taylor Heise, 23, who led the 2022 World Championship with seven goals and was the 2022 NCAA Player of the Year at Minnesota.

The team includes two teens — 19-year-old defender Haley Winn and 18-year-old forward Tessa Janecke — who were also the only teens at last week’s 46-player tryout camp. Janecke, a Penn State freshman, is set to become the youngest U.S. forward to play at an Olympics or worlds since Brandt in 2012.

Abbey Levy, a 6-foot-1 goalie from Boston College, made her first world team, joining veterans Nicole Hensley and Aerin Frankel.

Last summer, Canada repeated as world champion by beating the U.S. in the final, six months after beating the U.S. in the Olympic final. Canada is on its longest global title streak since winning all five Olympic or world titles between 1999 and 2004.

Also at last summer’s worlds, the 33-year-old Knight broke the career world championship record for points (now up to 89). She also has the most goals in world championship history (53). Knight, already the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s hockey player in history, will become the second-oldest American to play at a worlds after Cammi Granato, who was 34 at her last worlds in 2005.

The Canadians are on a four-game win streak versus the Americans, capping a comeback in their recent seven-game rivalry series from down three games to none. Their 5-0 win in the decider in February was their largest margin of victory over the U.S. since 2005.

Last May, former AHL coach John Wroblewski was named U.S. head coach to succeed Joel Johnson, the Olympic coach.

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