What’s next for 16-year-old gold medallist?

At 16, Josef Craig is eyeing World Championship qualification at this week’s British International Disability Swimming Championships. 25 Apr 2013
A picture of a man in the pool holding his hand up with clenched fist

Josef Craig won Paralympic gold in the men's 400m freestyle S7 in world-record time at London 2012.

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By Lindsay Wyskowski | For the IPC

“It’s achievable because if I can do it and I’m just a normal bloke … then anybody can really, if they put the work in.”

Josef Craig was only 15 when he became the youngest member of Great Britain’s team to win a gold medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

His world-record win in the 400m freestyle S7 on 6 September was the start of a series of amazing and new experiences for Craig, who is set to compete at the 2013 British International Disability Swimming Championships in Sheffield beginning on Thursday (25 April).

Creating a name for himself

Craig’s experiences in London have given him opportunities he never would have imagined.

In December, he was named BBC’s Young Sports Personality of the Year, an honour which in the past has been bestowed on Paralympians like Ellie Simmonds.

Then, in March, Craig met Queen Elizabeth II when he was given an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his services to swimming.

“It means everything to me as an athlete and a person,” Craig said. “They are the most prestigious awards anybody could ever hope of getting. I am so amazed and overwhelmed by winning these awards.”

Now, in what is one of the first major swim meets for many of the athletes who competed at London 2012, Craig is participating in three freestyle events – the 50m, 100m and 400m in the S7 class.

It should be no surprise that Craig considers the 400m freestyle is his favourite event.

He holds the S7 world record with a time of 4:42.81 and is seeded as the fastest S7 athlete competing this week.

Jonathan Fox, who Craig has called his rival, is also on the start list for this event. Athletes from 20 different countries are expected to compete in the four-day event.

Qualifying for Worlds

If Craig performs well in Sheffield, he will qualify to compete at the 2013 IPC Swimming World Championships, scheduled for 12-18 August in Montreal, Canada.

“I am just preparing like I normally would be,” Craig said of the meet. “The only difference is I’ve stepped up my training, so it’s now more intense. I’m doing more training sessions in the pool … more training sessions in the gym. I’m really trying to prepare myself and I’m motivated by what I’ve done in London.”

When Craig heads to the pool for training, he is open to any swim set that challenges him. He said he doesn’t have a favourite set because he believes in practicing everything to the best of his abilities.

“If you don’t like something, then your heart’s not in it, and you’re not going to do as well as you wanted to do,” he explained.

It is clear that Craig’s heart is in the right place when it comes to his sport, and as such a young athlete, Craig hopes he can inspire others with his early success.

“Inspiration was one of the goals of the Olympics and the Paralympics, to inspire more people to take up sport in our country,” Craig said.

“I hope what I have done inspired somebody somewhere to take up sport, and maybe think to themselves, ‘maybe I could do what he did.’”

“It’s achievable because if I can do it and I’m just a normal bloke … then anybody can really, if they put the work in.”

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