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Mallory Weggemann’s New Paralympic Record And Two Team USA Golds Kick Off Swimming, Day 6 In Tokyo

By Lisa Costantini | Aug. 30, 2021, 9:49 a.m. (ET)

Mallory Weggemann reacts after winning the women's 100-meter backstroke S7 swimming final during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 30, 2021 in Tokyo. 

 

TOKYO — Mallory Weggemann landed atop her second podium at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. For the second time of the Games, she saw a familiar face standing next to her for the medal ceremony.

On day six of swimming at the Tokyo Aquatics Center, the 32-year-old put down a new Paralympic record in the 100m backstroke S7 on Monday night with a time of 1:21.27. Her teammate — and current world record holder — rounded out the podium touch 0.11 seconds behind Canada's Danielle Dorris to take the bronze.

"It was not the time I wanted. It was a little slow, but I'm super pumped to get another medal for Team USA," Gaffney said about her earlier bronze medal in the 400m free. 

The first race for the women was almost a Team USA sweep, with McKenzie Coan finishing just off the podium in fourth. 

"It's remarkable to share the podium with a fellow Team USA teammate and see two flags go up," Weggemann said after coming in from her medal ceremony. "Two podiums, two golds. I couldn't think of anything better right now."

She first shared the podium in Tokyo with her teammate Ahalya Lettenberger when they went one, two in the women's 200 individual medley S7. Weggemann's gold medal time of 2:55.48 was just shy of her Paralympic record, which she set earlier that day. She also holds the world record, which hasn't been touched since 2010 when she raced the event in 2:48.43.

But it was her latest record that felt extra special.  

"I'll be honest," she said, "when you get into your 30s, you kind of start wondering how many career-best times are still left in the tank. I think I have a lot left, and it was really nice to have a race tonight that just solidified that I can still go best times."

Hannah Aspden poses during the women’s 100-meter backstroke S9 medal ceremony during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 30, 2021 in Tokyo. 

 

Among her teammates who were also putting down their best times in the pool was a mix of newcomers and vets, ranging in age from 17 to 33.

Weggemann thinks that is what is different aboutx their team from her previous two Games.

"I think our team is really unique," she said. 

"We have some teenage rock stars who are crushing it and breaking world records and winning gold medals. And then we have the veterans who are doing the same. So I think it's really cool to see those two ends bridge together and kind of create this team."

In the second race for the women, Hannah Aspden from Raleigh, NC, added to her medal count where she won two bronze in Rio (100m backstroke, 4x100-meter medley relay – 34 points). The 21-year-old raced in the 100m backstroke S9, going against some legends in the water and grabbing her first Paralympic gold medal with a time of 1:09.22. 

Tokyo 2020 was her second Games, but her first time on the podium finishing higher than third. Just thinking about it made her emotional.

"I'm really, really happy. It didn't feel real for a minute there. It still kind of doesn't. But it was such a fun race," Aspden said. "I don't know what I was expecting, but I just wanted to go in and give it everything I had. And that's what I did."

Finishing in fifth was her teammate Elizabeth Smith with a time of 1:14.24.

Anastasia Pagonis poses on the podium of women's 200-meter individual medley SM11 during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 30, 2021 in Tokyo.  Japan.

 

The youngest medal winner of the night was Anastasia Pagonis from Long Island, NY, who took the bronze (2:45.61), finishing behind Team China, who grabbed first and second in the women's 200IM S11.

It almost looked as if China was going to sweep the podium, but in the last 50 meters, Pagonis said she had to "put up a real fight" for her second podium spot, finishing 0.13 seconds ahead of China's Xinyi Wang. 

And from the youngest medal winner to the oldest, 33-year-old Leanne Smith — who was making her Paralympic debut — earned her first medal: silver. Her time of 1:37.68 was enough to put her in second behind Italy's Arjola Trimi in the women's 100m free S3. The reigning world champion will finish her time in Tokyo when she races her last 50m breaststroke SB3 event on Aug. 31.

Finishing in second in the women's 200IM SM13 was Colleen Young, 23, who improved on her fifth-place finish from Rio touching in 2:26.80. The three-time Paralympian said she has been working on her IMs but gives a lot of credit to her coach and training partner.

"I've just worked on my IM the last couple of years, and I am just so happy that it's paid off," she shared.

As a visually impaired athlete, Young said she couldn't see what place she finished, but she knew it was a medal when she saw the lights on the block light up.

"I can't see the scoreboard," she said, "but all I was looking for was the red light on my block. I knew if I got a red light, it didn't matter the medal. I just knew I would be so ecstatic. So when I saw that, I was like, 'Oh, thank God!'"

Her final event will occur on Sept. 1, when she will compete in the 100m breaststroke SB13.

Elizabeth Marks' bronze medal in the women's 50m butterfly S6 (36.83) rounded out the podium performances. The 31-year-old Army veteran doubled her Tokyo tally after her silver in the 50 freestyle S6 earned her her first Games medal. She was bested by Yujan Jiang, who was swimming with a strong team from China and grabbed the gold.

The two-time Paralympian already has two medals from Rio, but this was her first time competing in this event in a Games. Despite an impressive showing so far, she said her time in Tokyo had been an emotional rollercoaster. "I've been thinking about my brothers and sisters in the military a lot. But it's nice to be able to pour all those emotions into swimming."

The Cottonwood, AZ native will close out her time in Tokyo on Friday, Sept. 3, in the 100 backstroke S6.

Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo-2020-Paralympic-Games to view the medal table and results.

Lisa Costantini

Lisa Costantini is a freelance writer based in Orlando. She has covered Olympic and Paralympic sports for various publications, and has contributed to TeamUSA.org since 2011.

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