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Road to Rio: World title and world record for North-East swimming champ
JOSEF CRAIG added IPC World Championship gold to the Paralympic title he won in London last summer – and broke his own world record in the process.
The Jarrow swimmer, who was the joint winner of last year’s Northern Echo Local Heroes Awards thanks to his exploits in the Paralympic pool, edged out Russian Andrey Gladkov to win the S7 400m freestyle world title in Montreal.
The 16-year-old passed his rival in the final 10m to take the touch by just five hundredths of a second, posting a time of 4:39.14 to clip almost two seconds off his own world record.
The success cements Craig’s status as one of the leading disability swimmers in the world, but the North-Easterner will not be relaxing with three more events to go this week.
“I’m very pleased,” said Craig. “Obviously that’s the first race of four in this competition so I can’t rest on my laurels yet. I want to go ahead and see what I can do now.
“It’s given me the confidence to go forward and see if maybe I can win some more medals and some more races. I really want to push on now I’ve got that confidence.”
Yesterday’s final saw Craig explode out of the blocks and hold a considerable advantage at the halfway stage.
However, Galdkov clawed back his deficit in the third quarter of the race and briefly headed Craig as the pair made their final turn.
Craig could easily have dropped out of contention at that stage, but he displayed impressive resolve to hit back and triumph in a desperately close finale.
Jonathan Fox joined Craig on the podium, improving on his fourth-place finish at the Paralympics to claim a bronze medal.
“I had a blistering first 100m where I was ahead of everyone,” said Craig. “I knew it was too fast and I was going to suffer for it and I did, and that’s when Andrey grabbed his chance.
“Fair play, he got in front of me, but that just motivated me to get back ahead of him. It’s a game of cat mouse, swimming, and this time I was the cat and I won it.”
Craig was one of four British winners on the opening night of competition in Montreal, with Ellie Simmonds, Jessica-Jane Applegate and Steph Millward also winning world titles.
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