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33808-Gia Pergolini photo

Gia Pergolini

Swimming

Biography

Impairment information

Type of Impairment
Vision impairment
Origin of Impairment
Congenital
Classification
S13, SB13, SM13

Further personal information

Residence
Roswell, GA, USA
Occupation
Student
Languages
English

Sport specific information

When and where did you begin this sport?
She took up swimming at age five. Growing up she also played lacrosse, football and gymnastics, but enjoyed swimming the most. "Ever since I was little, my mother noticed that I loved being in the water so she put me on a swim team."
Why this sport?
She said she was initially resistant to taking part in Para swimming, but meeting other swimmers with impairments has helped her. "Once I started swimming for Para, I saw that there's other kids with the same disability as I. It opened my mind up more, and I started having a closer and closer relationship with Para swimming. My mum was very happy I found some people who I can relate and talk to. She tried her best, but she knew that my talking with these people would make me feel better. Her seeing me happy made her happy."
Club / Team
Dynamo Swim Club: Alpharetta, GA, USA
Name of coach
Nick Graves [club]

International debut

Year
2017
Competing for
United States

General interest

Hero / Idol
US swimmer Michael Phelps. (Athlete, 06 Dec 2017)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"Think positive thoughts before a race." (Athlete, 06 Dec 2017)
Impairment
In 2014 she was diagnosed with Stargardt disease. The condition causes a progressive loss of central vision during childhood or adolescence. "In kindergarten I had trouble seeing. It wasn't until I was 10 and in fourth grade that they found out I had Stargardt disease. I explain, I can see, but it's very, very blurry. I can see who is in front of me, but I can't tell what eye colour they have, or if they have makeup on, or not. I also say that I have blind spots in the middle of both my eyes and if I position my eye in a certain way, I can actually see the blind spots. Swimming was a sport where my vision wasn't as much of a factor, and I was really good at it. In the future, I know it'll progressively get worse, but all I can hope for is a cure." (ophthalmicedge.org, 18 Nov 2021; retinatoday.com, 06 Oct 2021; teamusa.org, 25 Aug 2021; swimmingworldmagazine.com, 16 Dec 2020; Through Gia's Eyes Foundation Facebook page, 26 Aug 2017)
Other information
UNOFFICIAL RECORDS
At the 2020 US Open meet in Huntsville, AL, at age 16, she swam world record times of 1:05.51 in the S13 100m backstroke and 2:25.16 in the 200m backstroke. However, the records were not officially ratified as the meet was not a World Para Swimming approved competition. "It gave me a lot of confidence, and it got me a lot more excited for Tokyo [Paralympic Games]." (teamusa.org, 24 Feb 2021; swimmingworldmagazine.com, 16 Dec 2020; swimswam.com, 17 Nov 2020)

LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
She says her more experienced teammates have helped her adapt to international competition. "A lot of the veterans and older athletes in Para are very welcoming and will take you under their wings. They really make you feel comfortable, and that you belong there. That helps motivate us, the younger athletes, to improve. They kind of inspire us to do better. Going out of the country by yourself when you're 13, that's a weird experience. I was like, 'Oh my god, I'm alone, my parents are gone, and the older athletes are talking me with and watching me, helping me through the ropes'." (teamusa.org, 24 Feb 2021)

FOUNDATION
In 2015 her mother Alice founded the Through Gia's Eyes Foundation. The non-profit organisation raises money to help families with children that have visual impairments lead independent lives. (swimswam.com, 17 Nov 2020; Through Gia's Eyes Foundation Facebook page, 27 Feb 2020)

Results

Unit Date Rank
Mexico City 2017 World Para Swimming Championships (Mexico City, Mexico)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Women's 100 m Backstroke S13 Final 1 2017-12-02 2
Women's 100 m Butterfly S13 Final 1 2017-12-04 4
Women's 100 m Breaststroke SB13 Final 1 2017-12-06 5