Superswimmer Josef Craig is one step closer to Rio dream
South Tyneside super swimmer Josef Craig faces an anxious wait to see if he will make the British Paralympic team for Rio.
The 19-year-old, from Jarrow, has met the qualifying time needed for a place in the team but will have to wait until May 16 to find out if he will be chosen.
The teenager, who was born with cerebral palsy, burst into the sporting spotlight at the age of 15 by winning gold in the 2012 Paralympic Games in London - smashing two world records on the way to the top of the podium in the 400m freestyle.
That was in the S7 competition category.
Josef is now swimming as a S8 competitor after the swimming authorities ruled his disability was no longer severe enough to allow him to continue swimming in at S7 and now compete with more mobile swimmers.
Since his re-classification Josef, a member of the City of Sunderland club, has altered his training and his hard work paid off when he met the qualifying time in the 50m freestyle - doing the distance in 27.27 seconds.
Josef said: “To have a qualifying time for the Rio Games is something I can’t describe right now. I just wanted to make my team proud.”
Today, Josef, who was awarded an MBE in 2013 for services to swimming, is heading to Madeira, where he will compete in the European Championships.
His mum Kim Craig said: “With the change in classification, we weren’t sure what would happen but he has remained focused throughout and adjusted his training.
“He really can’t work any harder than he is. We are all so proud of what he has achieved. Just to get the time he needed to qualify is such an achievement.
“Rio was the games he was aiming for all along before he was picked for the London games.
“Since winning in London it has been amazing but these past two years has been quite stressful, but, Josef being Josef, he is continuing to take it all in his stride.
“It is as if he has tunnel vision when it comes to his swimming. He also has an inner belief which has helped him to achieve all that he has.”
As a seven-year-old, Josef was determined that one day he would be chosen to represent his country on the international sporting scene.
Even at such a young age, he was so sure of achieving his goal, he wrote to swimwear company Speedo telling them he would one day swim for England.