Anastasia Pagonis’ extraordinary journey to the top began at the age of 14, when she had a sudden and unexpected loss of her vision.
Dealing with a life-altering condition made things considerably more difficult for her, even though adolescence is already a stressful time for any teenager.
According to what she said with TODAY, “it took me about eight months to kind of regroup myself, and then I got it in my head, ‘Okay, I’m blind. Now the question is, ‘What am I going to do with the rest of my life?'”
Pagonis, who was born and raised on Long Island, can be said to have spent the majority of his life around water.
Just a few short months before she went completely blind, she had started participating in competitive freestyle swimming.
Even though she had poor vision, she was able to excel at the sport. However, she decided to retire from competitive swimming due to the “abusive team” attitude.
The emotional toll was significant due to the fact that she lost her sight so soon after giving up the hobby that she cherished.
Following several months of treatment, the dogged teenager was prepared to resume swimming; yet, for Pagonis, swimming alone was not sufficient. She had the ambition to compete.
She was now confronted with another difficult situation. During an interview with TEAM USA, she recalled that nobody wanted to train the blind kid.
“Nobody wanted to train the blind girl,” she said. “I ended up, after about eight months of looking, finding an incredible coach who was prepared to train me and actually put on blackout goggles to try to figure out a method for me to swim,” I said. “It took me a while, but I finally did it.”
Pagonis had already established a name for himself as a hard competitor by the time he became 16 years old, winning two gold medals in the World Para Swimming World Series held in Australia.
Pagonis was hesitant to participate in social media at first, despite the tremendous sense of success that she had acquired.
However, once Pagonis understood that the lessons she had learned and the optimistic perspective she had developed may be of use to others, she joyfully accepted the role of a role model.
Pagonis expressed to TEAM USA his desire to assist others by saying, “I want to serve people the way that I needed help.”
“When I first started using Instagram and other forms of social media, I received a number of private messages and comments from people telling me things like, ‘Wow, you really helped me get through little things,’ ‘I was getting bullied in school, and you helped me get through that,’ and ‘You let me know how much I was worth.'”
Once she was back in the water, Pagonis felt like she was exactly where she belonged. She declared to TODAY that the location was “my happiest place.”
“It’s the area where I feel like I don’t have a disability, and I feel like that’s the only place where I’m truly free,” she said.
“It’s the place where I feel like I don’t have a disability.” When I take a dive, it’s just me in the pool, and I feel like I have such a connection with the environment.
At the beginning of this year, she was blissfully unaware that her happy spot was going to receive a boost from the efforts of a number of other athletes from the state of New York.
An cute Labrador retriever by the name of Radar was set to become the first dog to graduate from the New York Islanders’ Puppies With Purpose Program, which was established in collaboration with the charitable Guide Dog Foundation. And what better person to pair the youngster with than a native of the same island, Pagonis?
Pagonis and Radar started their initial training at her house because the epidemic was taking place at the time. On the 19th of August, they were both prepared to take on the world as a team.
Pagonis expressed his gratitude to GNN by saying, “I am extremely fortunate to have Radar.” “He is not only my accomplice in crime, but he has also helped me regain my independence!”
Pagonis has been able to establish herself as a resident athlete at Colorado’s Olympic Paralympic Training Center as a result of her independence.
Her ultimate objective is to compete in the games that will be held in Tokyo in 2021. Pagonis wrote in a tweet, “This was a massive and terrifying decision for me.”
“But there are times when you just have to take a leap of faith because if you don’t try, you’ll never know. Always strive to make your aspirations a reality.
We believe that Pagonis’ hopes and ambitions have a very good possibility of materializing if she continues to refer to her dog as her “copilot.”