Champions Among Us

Train Like North Fulton's Paralympians

"Home is where the heart is and the training is best!"

So says two North Fulton-based Paralympians who may live and train in Roswell, but both have New Year's plans that will once again take them around the globe after their record-breaking performances and gold medals in Tokyo during 2021.

They also have advice for their fellow North Fulton residents as the new year brings resolutions and goals for the coming months.

Gia Pergolini dives into the best of Roswell.

"I am so fortunate to be from Roswell and it all starts with the people," explains US Paralympic swimmer, Gia Pergolini. The 17-year old St. Francis senior and Dynamo Swim Team member appreciates all the support she receives to hone her craft. "From my neighbors to organizations like the Rotary Club, people have been super supportive and it's just a great family community."

After returning from Tokyo with a gold medal, shattering the world record in the 100m backstroke, Pergolini was afforded the opportunity to train just about anywhere, but the decision was easy to stay in Roswell.

"It's best for me to stay where I've been all along at Dynamo Swim Club in Alpharetta. I've worked with Coach Nate Graves almost my entire life."

And since she was 13, she's trained with Larry Keaton at CrossFit Breaking Boundaries in Roswell. Keaton says Gia brings something unique to the gym.

"Gia brings to my gym community the energy of youth, the wit and humor of her parents, and the hard work of an elite athlete. She is like a little sister. Seeing her achieve her dream of a gold medal was one of the proudest moments of my life."

Maturity emanates from the young swimmer, but her resolutions for 2022 aren't limited to what happens in the pool or gym.

A New Year's desire to get more fit will include frequent trips to her favorite restaurant, Poke 4 Life on Alpharetta Highway. The Poke 4 Life Bowl with salmon, tuna, crab meat, mixed greens and other vegetables is her favorite. She also enjoys shopping at Avalon with friends and family, and dinners at La Strada on Johnson Ferry Road.

The new year will bring the 2022 Paralympic Swimming World Championships in Madeira, Portugal and a decision on which college Gia will be attending in the fall of 2022.

"I know 2022 will be a success and that I'll make the right decision on college," adds Gia. "I couldn't do it without my parents. They have been so supportive. Being a kid with a vision disability doesn't just affect you, it affects your entire family."

On track with Nick Mayhugh.

Sprinter Nick Mayhugh has found Roswell and North Fulton ideal for his training on and off the track.

"It's been fantastic," stated Mayhugh, who won three golds and set two world records in Tokyo. "The weather is great for training. I love the sun and I love the heat and it's such a welcoming atmosphere. I grew up in Northern Virginia and I'm familiar with heavy traffic, so it reminds me of home."

Whether it's going for sushi, coffee at the nearest Starbucks or eating tacos from Mr. Taco on Holcomb Bridge Rd., Mayhugh says the area offers the ability to keep his daily routine and be comfortable.

"Training is one of the most critical parts of your life and lifestyle as an athlete. I love hanging out with locals and regulars, but I really have a small circle of friends. It's crucial to keep stress and distractions at a minimum."

Nick got his start in competitive sports with soccer. He excelled and even with a mild form of Cerebral Palsy, nothing was going to stop him from reaching his goals and inspiring others.

He joined the US Para 7-A-Side National Soccer Team in 2017 and has participated in four major competitions and has played in six different countries, all while scoring 34 goals in 25 appearances.

But it would be in track and field that Mayhugh would find international success in Tokyo.

Golds in the 100m, 200m, and 4x100 relay along with two world records put Mayhugh in rare air. Only 11 Americans have won more golds in a single sport at a Paralympic Games than Mayhugh.

It's an accomplishment that Mayhugh wants to share with others. In his free time, he loves to give motivational speeches at schools and local sports clubs. He is always looking for ways to share his story to inspire and motivate young people.

"Chasing dreams" has been his resolution for many years, but Mayhugh is expanding on that for 2022.

"It's about keeping things simple," smiled Mayhugh. "It's okay not to be okay and showing emotions is also okay. Have fun and remember why you started this (journey)."

Pergolini echoes that advice and wants to thank everyone for helping her achieve her goals.

"It's all about appreciating the moment, the people around you and having a comfortable lifestyle."

Rick Limpert is an Atlanta-based writer that covers the intersection of sports and technology. You can follow him on Twitter at @RickRoswell.

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