South Tyneside swimmer Josef Craig is on his way to Rio to compete in his second Paralympic Games.
Ever since he was a youngster Josef always believed he would one day make it to the Paralympic Games.
At the age of 15 his dreams came true as he represented his country at London 2012 – an event which saw him catapulted into the media spotlight after smashing world records on his way to the top of podium.
Four years on, the teenager – who went on to win a host of medals from championships held across the world – is preparing to head to Rio to take part in his second Paralympic games.
However, it was a trip that earlier this yea, was thrown into doubt, when a change in classification saw Josef moved from the S7 category to S8.
The change left the swimmer believing his career was over. But after digging deep both mentally and physically, he was given the news he would once again represent his country in the Paralympic Games after making the qualifying times.
“To get where he is, to be representing Great Britain in the Paralympic team in Rio - it’s just amazing.”Kim Craig
The 19-year-old, from Jarrow, is currently at a training camp in Manchester, before heading to London where the team will fly to Rio.
Speaking a few months ago to the Gazette after he made his qualifying time, Josef, who has cerebral palsy, said: “When I was put into a different classification I thought that was it, it was all over.
“It’s all about self-belief. Initially when the classification changed the self-belief I had went. I was left really wondering if I would be able to do it.
“For London, I was a bit of wild card but here I had to make the time, otherwise I wasn’t going. But I trained hard and was just happy I made the qualifying time and was chosen to represent the team again. This is a huge thing for me.”
His mum Kim Craig said: “We’re all excited for Josef and extremely pleased with what he has achieved.
“To get where he is, to be representing Great Britain in the Paralympic team in Rio – it’s just amazing.
“When he was put into the S8 category it was a huge blow to him. But he worked hard and just focused on the end result, which was making it to Rio, that was the main thing.
“The S8 category is a much harder category, but whatever happens we will all be extremely proud of him. He has achieved so much already.”
Kim will be heading out to Rio ahead of the games along with other family members to support the teenager as he competes in the S8 400, 100 and 50 Freestyle events and relay.
She added: “It’s a completely different feeling this time. In London I think we were all a bit naïve and because of his age I stayed with him right up until he went into the camp.
“But this time, he’s a man and I’ve had to leave him to do his own thing. I do worry about him, whether he’s eating enough and how he’s feeling?
“Josef is just Josef and he’s taking it all in his stride and is just remaining so focused.”
The City of Sunderland Amateur Swimming Club swimmer, will compete in his first event – the 400m freestyle – on September 8, with races scheduled for September 11, 14 and 16.