McKenzie Coan reacts at the Para Swimming World Championship on Dec. 2, 2017 in Mexico City, Mexico.
For U.S. Para swimmers, the countdown to Tokyo began in earnest Thursday night in Lewisville, Texas, with their first World Para Swimming World Series event of the year.
It’s the first international race of any kind for much of Team USA in more than a year, and a field of Paralympic veterans and newcomers alike took to the pool Thursday for the first of three days of action. Among the top names competing for Team USA were three-time Paralympic gold medalist McKenzie Coan, 13-time gold medalist Jessica Long and gold medalist Becca Meyers. Coan was golden again as one of Team USA’s big winners, winning in the women’s 100-meter freestyle.
“It feels so good to come back and win gold,” Coan said. “It makes you appreciate it so much more. It’s so good to be back. We didn’t know if this would be possible a year ago, and I’m just looking forward to the rest of the meet and hopefully Tokyo this summer.”
Team USA’s other gold medalists were David Abrahams (100-meter breaststroke), Leanne Smith (50-meter breaststroke) and Colleen Young (100-meter breaststroke). Abrahams and Young also broke American and Americas records.
“This one means a lot to me,” Smith said. “Last year was a particularly rough year. On this exact day last year, I went in for an emergency surgery that ended up leading to an eight-week stay at an inpatient facility. It was really hard to rehab back to just my baseline, and then to add swimming in on top of that took quite some work and effort from not only myself, but a lot of people. This is really special.”
Anastasia Pagonis also broke the American and Americas records in the 100-meter free, and finished with a silver medal. Lawrence Sapp won silver in the 200 free. Winning bronze medals were Leslie Cichocki (200 free), Sophia Herzog (100 breaststroke), Zach Shattuck (100 breaststroke) and Natalie Sims (100 free).
The Lewisville World Series continues Friday and Saturday. Thirty athletes in all from Team USA will compete at the only U.S. stop on the World Series calendar.