Paralympic hero Josef Craig has beaten his own world record and been crowned world champion.
The athlete, of Jarrow, South Tyneside, set an S7 400m freestyle world record as he and Ellie Simmonds got Great Britain off to a winning start at the IPC Swimming World Championships in Montreal.
The 16-year-old, who suffers from cerebral palsy, touched in at 4 minutes 39.14 seconds to edge out Russia’s Andrey Gladkov by five hundredths of a second and take virtually two seconds off his own world record – which he had set in the trials in Sheffield in June. Team-mate Jonathan Fox was third.
The Hebburn schoolboy 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.
And last night, from the competition in Canada, his mum 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.
And following the competition in Canada his mum says the family are treating him to a holiday in Gran Canaria.
Kim said: “He has worked so hard for this and I’m so proud. He hasn’t had a rest for five years and when we are finished here we are going to take him away to recharge his batteries.”
Josef won last year’s BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year award, beating off swimming champion Jessica-Jane Applegate and gymnast Rebecca Tunney in the competition which celebrates sporting achievements of Britain’s under-16s.
He was one of the winners on a glittering night for British sport, with the main Sports Personality of the Year award being won by cyclist Bradley Wiggins.