Blind athlete aims for Tokyo with new guide dog by her side

By the time she was 14 years old, a genetic disorder caused Anastasia Pagonis to become legally blind.

“Over the course of two months, I would say it completely went,” she said. “I felt like if I was going to be blind, what was the point of me being here.”

The teen went from seeing the world in living color to only being able to sense light and shadows. But after some self-love came a change of heart.

Pagonis decided to pursue her Paralympic dreams and passion of taking on the world in the water.

“When I’m in the water I feel free,” she said. “I feel like nothing is holding me back.”

She’s dreaming big thanks to a little gift that made life easier and a partnership between the Guide Dog Foundation and the New York Islanders that donated the money to train Radar - her new best friend - a 2-year-old yellow lab.

“This turned out to be a perfect pairing. Anastasia is a very active, highly energetic athlete. And Radar is a good size and his ability having been socialized in front of large crowds,” said John Miller with the Guide Dog Foundation.

It’s a good thing Radar is used to large crowds because Anastasia is going for the gold and Radar would go along for the ride. Qualifiers because of COVID-19 are now scheduled to begin in April. Anastasia is hoping to make it to Tokyo 2021.

Anastasia is a World Series gold medal winner and currently resides at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs where she puts in several hours a day this while at the same time she tries to change the way the world portrays blind people. 

“I never saw any blind people outdoors or in the supermarkets and things like that,” she said. “I want to show people I can get out, go shopping and be an elite athlete.”

With Radar by her side, Anastasia says anything is possible.

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