Golden paralympian Josef Craig arrived home to a warm welcome after smashing his own world record.
The athlete, of Jarrow, South Tyneside, swam his way to gold in the S7 400m freestyle and the 100m freestyle and picked up silver in the 50m event, in the IPC Swimming World Championships in Montreal, Canada.
The 16-year-old Hebburn schoolboy, who suffers from cerebral palsy, returned homed yesterday.
He said: “It has been an amazing competition - I have really enjoyed it. I wasn’t expecting them other two medals but I just put my head down and swam as fast as I could and hoped for a good outcome.
“I’m really happy with myself for breaking my record but I had to do it to win the race. I had really tough competition from Andrey Gladkov and Jonathan Fox. I always try my best and if that gets me gold then great but if I come out with silver then so what.”
Josef was greeted by family, friends and the deputy leader of South Tyneside Council Alan Kerr as he landed at Newcastle Airport this week.
He, alongside Nicole Lough from South Shields, who picked up bronze and a place on the podium in the S14 100 breaststroke, had flown for 12 hours when they arrived back in the North East to the sound of applause and hugs from family members.
Josef said: “I’m glad to be back home. Canada was great and I really enjoyed it, it was a really nice place and Montreal is a lovely city. It’s not as good as the North East. Newcastle can’t be beaten.”
In Canada Josef repeated his Paralympic exploits which saw him become Britain’s youngest champion at London 2012 when he won the S7 400m freestyle at the Paralympics.
His mother Kim said she couldn’t be any prouder. The 48-year-old said: “We are absolutely ecstatic and it was so worth it. It was nail-biting and I’ve never seen a final as close as that.
“I saw Josef after the race and he said it was very close, but he was pleased to retain his medal. He thanked everyone who has supported him. That’s the main event over with and he has broken the record again. For him it was a hard event and it’s even harder to stay at the top. I’m just pleased he did it. Words can’t describe how I feel – I think I lost the ability to speak at the end.”
The past five years have been all go for the teenager. In the Paralympics he stormed to victory by not only reducing his personal best by eight seconds to break the world record in the heats, but also by improving his time in the final, taking gold with a time of 4:42.81.
He beat the defending Paralympic silver medallist, as well as the reigning world and European champions to win the event.
The year also saw him win his first British medal, with a bronze in the 100m freestyle at the 2012 British Swimming Championships back in March, leading him to be selected for three events in the Paralympics.