Entertainment Sports 17-Year-Old Breaks Her Own World Record, Wins Team USA's First Gold Medal at Tokyo Paralympics "If you told me this a few years ago, I wouldn't even think I'd be alive so just being here and being able to have this experience and this — unbelievable," Anastasia Pagonis said By Nicholas Rice Nicholas Rice Instagram Twitter Nicholas Rice is an Associate Editor for PEOPLE Magazine. He began working with the brand as an Editorial Intern in early 2020, before later transitioning to a freelance role, and then staff positions soon after. Nicholas writes and edits anywhere between 7 to 9 stories per day on average for PEOPLE, spanning across each vertical the brand covers. Nicholas has previous work experience with Billboard, POPSUGAR, Bustle and Elite Daily. When not working, Nicholas can be found playing with his 5 dogs, listening to pop music or eating mozzarella sticks. People Editorial Guidelines Published on August 26, 2021 12:05 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Trending Videos Photo: OIS/Joel Marklund/Shutterstock Anastasia Pagonis won Team USA's first gold medal at the Tokyo Paralympics! On Thursday, the 17-year-old swimmer competed in the first major international meet of her career and bested her own world record. Taking place at the Tokyo Aquatic Center on the second day of the Paralympic competitions, Pagonis took part in the women's 400m freestyle S11, finishing in a time of 4:54.49 — 10.85 seconds ahead of the rest of her fellow athletes. During the swimming event, Liesette Bruinsma of the Netherlands finished second with 5:05.34, while China's Cai Liwen scored bronze in 5:07.56. "If you told me this a few years ago, I wouldn't even think I'd be alive so just being here and being able to have this experience and this — unbelievable," Pagonis said after her victory. "I love being able to bond with my teammates and have this experience with all of them." The Long Island native added, "I think supporting and cheering on my teammates is super important." Marcus Brandt/picture alliance via Getty Images The Tokyo Paralympics Are Underway! See the Most Incredible Photos from the Opening Ceremony Pagonis' teammate, McClain Hermes, meanwhile, finished sixth in 5:29.24 and veteran attendee Colleen Young finished in eighth place. Pagonis' previous world record of 4:56.16 was accomplished in the final of the U.S. Paralympic Trials in June, NBC Sports reported. Looking ahead, Pagonis has three events left to compete in while in Tokyo — the 50m freestyle on Aug. 27, 200m individual medley on Aug. 30, and 100m freestyle on Sept. 3. Also on Thursday, Para swimmer Gia Pergolini won Team USA's second gold medal after her village roommate Pagonis' race, winning in the women's 100m backstroke S13. To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. The Tokyo Paralympics air on NBC until September 5.