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Meet The Seven Team USA Paralympians Under 18 Years Old

By Santosh Venkataraman | Aug. 13, 2021, 8 a.m. (ET)

When the Paralympic Games begin on Aug. 24 in Tokyo, seven members of the U.S. team represent their country even before they’re old enough to vote.

Here are Team USA’s seven Paralympians under 18.

Keegan Knott competes at the U.S. Paralympic Swimming Trials on June 17, 2021 in Minneapolis.


Keegan Knott, 16 - Swimming

Knott, of Lake Villa, Illinois, has earned the right to compete in five different swimming events in Tokyo. She has been swimming since the age of 7, focusing more on the sport after spending her early years learning various forms of dance, including ballet and jazz. Knott was born with congenital femoral deficiency that left her with a shorter right leg and fused right ankle. She represented Team USA internationally for the first time two years ago at the Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru. With her birthday on July 11, Knott was just 15 when she booked her spot on Team USA at the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials in June in Minneapolis.

Ezra Frech reacts at the 2021 U.S. Paralympic Trials on June 18, 2021 in Minneapolis.


Ezra Frech, 16 - Track and Field

The Los Angeles native is the second-youngest member of Team USA, and he has been playing sports his whole life after being born with congenital limb differences. Which sports? You name it, as he has played quarterback in football, skateboarded and surfed, to name just a few. Yet Frech lists track and field as his favorite, and he first showcased his skills on the world stage at the 2019 World Para Athletics Junior Championships with a gold medal in the high jump and bronze medals in the 100-meter dash and long jump. It’s very possible that anyone reading this has seen Frech, whose lengthy television appearances including “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “Good Morning America.” In fact, Frech told Ellen back in 2014 that his dream was to compete in the Paralympics.

MeiMei White competes at the U.S. Paralympic Swimming Trials on June 17, 2021 in Minneapolis.


Madelyn White, 17 - Swimming

White, who splits her time in Orlando and Macon, Georgia, was born in China before being adopted at 18 months by Michael and Kelley White, who had adopted another baby girl six years prior. White, who also goes by her birth name, MeiMei, has overcome four surgeries on her right leg, starting from when she was 2, to develop into an elite competitor, winning World Para Swimming World Series titles in 2019 in the 100-meter breaststroke and 400-meter freestyle. She also enjoys spending time with her two black labs, Radar and Yana. 

Gia Pergolini competes at the U.S. Paralympic Swimming Trials on June 17, 2021 in Minneapolis.


Gia Pergolini, 17 - Swimming

Pergolini made a major splash at the U.S. Paralympic Team Trials with a world record in the 100-meter backstroke, an event in which she specializes in after grabbing silver at world championships in 2017 and 2019. The Atlanta native is a Filipina American who was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease, a degenerative condition of the retina that causes partial blindness. Pergolini opted to concentrate on the pool after she grew up participating in lacrosse, soccer and gymnastics. One of her career-defining moments came four years ago at a meet in Canada in which she won five golds among seven medals.  

Sydney Barta reacts at the Parapan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 28, 2019 in Lima, Peru. 


Sydney Barta, 17 - Track and Field

Barta, from Arlington, Virginia, is a multi-sport star who has only been competing in track and field for three years. However, her talent was evident as she qualified for her first world championships two years ago and finished fourth in the 200-meter dash, shot put and discus. Now, Barta looks to take the next step, along with continuing to inspire since losing her leg at the age of 6 due to a freak accident and enduring an incredible 21 surgeries. At school, Barta also plays varsity volleyball and basketball while somehow managing to squeeze in some water skiing as well. 

Anastasia Pagonis competes at the U.S. Paralympic Swimming Trials on June 17, 2021 in Minneapolis.


Anastasia Pagonis, 17 - Swimming

A native of Long Island, New York, Pagonis has needed approximately six years since she started swimming to reach the pinnacle of the sport. She was diagnosed with a genetic retina disease and autoimmune retinopathy after she began having trouble with her vision at the age of 11, ending her soccer career. When one sport ended, however, she dove into the pool to start another. Pagonis’ world-class ability was on full display at U.S. Paralympic Trials, as she set a world record in the 400-meter freestyle and U.S. record in the 100-meter freestyle. It’s possible Pagonis could use Tokyo as a launching pad for other pursuits since she boasts nearly 2 million TikTok followers on an account in which she educates about her swimming career, as well as about the blind community. 

Ixhelt Gonzalez poses at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center on Feb. 6, 2020 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 


Ixhelt Gonzalez, 17 - Wheelchair Basketball

Gonzalez became the youngest person to make a U.S. wheelchair basketball team when she was selected for the women’s squad at the age of 13 four years ago. In 2018, the Chicago native joined the team at the world championships in Germany, helping Team USA finish sixth. As someone who has femoral anteversion, a condition that causes her hips and feet to twist inwards and prevents her from competing in able-bodied sport, Gonzalez doesn’t use a wheelchair in her daily life. She turned aside some initial aversion to playing in a wheelchair to developing into a true prodigy of the sport. She is generally the lone female on the Chicago Skyhawks coed wheelchair basketball team that her brother, who has cerebral palsy, also played for.

Santosh Venkataraman

Santosh Venkataraman is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Sydney Barta

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Ezra Frech

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