US Para-swimmers set records and win medals in return for international competition

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McKenzie Coan reacts to the Para Swimming World Championships on December 2, 2017 in Mexico City, Mexico.

For American para-swimmers, the countdown to Tokyo began in earnest Thursday night in Lewisville, TX with their first World Para-swimming Series event of the year.

This is the first international race of any kind for much of the United States team in over a year, and a group of Paralympic veterans and newcomers have made it to the pool. Thursday for the first of three days of action. Among the big names in contention for Team USA were three-time Paralympic gold medalist McKenzie Coan, 13-time gold medalist Jessica Long and gold medalist Becca Meyers. Coan was once again gold as one of the big winners of the USA team, winning the women’s 100-meter freestyle.

“It’s so good to come back and win the gold,” Coan said. “It makes you appreciate him a lot more. It’s so good to be back. We weren’t sure if that would be possible a year ago, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the competition and hopefully the, Tokyo this summer.

The other gold medalists for the US team were David Abrahams (100-meter breaststroke), Leanne Smith (50-meter breaststroke) and Colleen Young (100-meter breaststroke). Abrahams and Young also broke American and American records.

“This one means a lot to me,” Smith said. “Last year was a particularly difficult year. That day last year, I underwent emergency surgery which ultimately led to an eight week stay in an inpatient facility. It was really hard to get back to my baseline and then adding swimming on top of that took a lot of work and effort not just from myself but a lot of people. It really is special.

Anastasia Pagonis also broke US and US records in the 100-meter freestyle and finished with a silver medal. Lawrence Sapp won silver in the 200 freestyle. The 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 in the only US stop on the World Series calendar.

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