ATLANTA — An Atlanta teen is now a Paralympic champion.

Gia Pergolini, 17, may be a junior at St. Francis High School in Milton, but she’s also the world record holder for the women’s 100-meter backstroke.

Pergolini won gold at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo earlier this week, smashing the world record that she set during qualifying. Her time was 1:04:64.

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“For the past couple months, I always said to myself ‘1:04, 1:04, 1:04. I’m going to get 1:04.’” Pergolini said. “So going into this race, I was confident I was going to go 1:04. I focused on just going out, having fun and representing my country.”

According to Team USA, Pergolini suffers from Stargardt’s disease, a genetic eye disorder that causes progressive vision loss.

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The Tokyo games were Pergolini’s first Paralympics. She competed in the 100-meter backstroke, which she won, and the 100-meter butterfly, in which she placed fifth.

She is still set to compete in the 50-meter freestyle.

That’s not all she’s looking forward to, though. Pergolini says she’s already looking ahead to the Paris Paralympics in 2024.


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