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Long Island's Anastasia Pagonis Wins Gold At Tokyo Paralympics

GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A teen swimmer from Long Island overcame the unimaginable and made history at the Paralymic Games in Tokyo.

17-year-old Anastasia Pagonis is blind. But through incredible strength and determination, she made it to this world record moment.

Peter Pagonis is smiling ear-to-ear at his home in Garden City. His wife is with their daughter, Anastasia, who's making history in Tokyo, CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported Friday.

"She got dealt lemons, and she made lemonade out of it. That's what I tell everybody all the time, because that's my daughter," Pagonis said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul gave Anastasia a shoutout for the record-setting performance in her international debut that gave the U.S. its first gold medal in the Paralympics.

It was a horrible day six years ago when Anastasia began losing her central vision because of genetic retinal disease.

"She was going back and forth, weaving in and out of lanes and then, I said, 'Honey, is everything OK?' And she said, "Daddy, I'm not seeing,'" Pagonis explained.

Her eyesight went dark. But swimming helped her life turn bright after years of struggles.

"She's so sassy and bubbly and she's just full of life," Pagonis said of his daughter.

Her TikTok, Instagram and Facebook followers are growing by the minute. Fans are flocking to the Pagonis' family-run restaurant, Louie's of Manhasset.

Aunts and uncles cheer her on. They said her white lab guide dog in anxiously awaiting her return.

Anastasia has a chance to win more medals in Tokyo. The 200 individual medley is Monday and the 100 freestyle is Sept. 3.

Her followers in Garden City and Manhasset said they're planning to wake up at 5 a.m. to watch her next event.

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