SOUTH Tyneside super swimmer Josef Craig is to face a new pool battle after having his disability re-classified by officials.
The teen paralympic gold medallist is now competing as a S8 competitor after the swimming authorities ruled his disability is no longer severe enough to allow him to continue swimming in the S7 category.
Josef, 17, from Swinbourne Terrace, Jarrow, who has cerebral palsy, was forced to swim in the higher class in the European championships in Eindhoven, Holland.
But that didn’t stop the teen swimming champ from taking his place on the medal podium, earlier this month, after taking bronze in the S8 400m and 100m freestyle events after competing against more able bodied competitors.
Now Josef is more determined than ever to not only make Rio in 2016, but do his best to bring back another gold medal.
Mum Kim said: “We knew his classification was going to be looked at when he went to the trials in Glasgow due to his age, but we thought he would stay the same.
“So to be told he now has to compete in the next level up felt like his whole world had come crashing down.
“It has been difficult for Josef, as he has really worked hard to get where he is, and it hasn’t been easy for him
“He was really fearful he wouldn’t be able to make the grade and that he would be cast to one side.
“Swimming is his life, his whole world, and he felt like it was being taken away from him.
“The European Championships in Eindhoven was the first time he had competed at that level.
“He had no idea what he was up against, and he looked so weak compared to the other swimmers.
“But he held his own and when he came third and achieved a personal best, it was like he had won gold all over again.”
Josef went on to take bronze in the S8 400m and 100m freestyle and in the 400m relay.
His mum added: “These past two months have taken it out of him, but he has been supported loads by family, friends and his swimming coach Danny Thompson, who have all been amazing.
“He also received a letter from Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer saying how much he supports him, and that he knows he will make it, whatever class he is in.”
Josef’s next big contest is the World Championships next year .
His mum added: “He is totally focused on the Worlds, and even though he has two weeks off, he is looking forward to getting back into the pool and into training.”
Josef swam to sporting fame in the London 2012 Paralympics when he took gold in the S7 400m freestyle, smashing the world record twice on his way to the top of the podium.
He went on to take gold in the World Championships in Canada in the S7 100m and 400m freestyle and silver in the 50m freestyle.
According to the International Paralympic Committee, S7 is for athletes with one leg and one arm amputation on opposite sides, double leg amputations or a paralysis of one arm and one leg on the same side.
Swimmers with full control over arms and trunk and some leg function can compete in this class.
S8 is for swimmers who have lost both hands or one arm, or who severe restrictions in the joints of the lower limbs.