Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Just Wait until You Get Home, Our Josef. Kisses, Hugs and a Few Tears Await Swimming Sensation, 15

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Just Wait until You Get Home, Our Josef. Kisses, Hugs and a Few Tears Await Swimming Sensation, 15

Article excerpt

Byline: Lisa Hutchinson

TO his grandparents, Paralympian swimming sensation Josef Craig has always been their golden boy.

But after smashing his own world record and taking the gold in the 400m S7 freestyle final, Ken and Mary Craig say they can't wait to get him back to Tyneside to congratulate him in person.

The Craigs dedicate their living room to photographs of their two children, four grandchildren and one great granddaughter ... and Josef, wearing his Paralympic tracksuit, takes pride of place. But now they have talked of their overwhelming pride and the admiration they have for their determined grandson. Mary, 73, beamed: "When we were watching him on telly, we were shouting so much that Ken was choking and my heart was ready to burst.

"When he broke the world record it was brilliant and then the little beggar came again and won the gold."

Josef, from Jarrow, South Tyneside, swam a four minutes 42.81-second time that was nearly 12 seconds faster than his personal best prior to the semi final and made him Great Britain's youngest male Paralympic medal winner in the pool.

His Paralympic dream was almost shattered last summer when he was diagnosed with Graves' Disease, which meant he had to have his thyroid removed.

The 15-year-old, who swims for South Tyneside Swimming Club, couldn't swim for eight weeks. But he fought back. Former factory packer Mary was tearful as she recalled being first told Josef suffered from cerebral palsy when he was nine months old.

"Deep down we always knew something was wrong. His little left hand was always closed and he didn't like it when you tried to open it," said Mary, of Felling, Gateshead.

"When Kim, his mam, rang to tell us, she was heartbroken. But she has been a fantastic mam as she has never let it get in the way. I always wanted to wrap him up in cotton wool but Kim would let him do everything."

Josef's parents, Kim, 48, and Kenneth, 53, split around five years ago but the pair remained the best of friends for the sake of Josef and daughter Jemma, 27.

Mary added: "At about six months Josef was in the pool. He took to it like a duck to water and he just loved it. …

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