Page 3 Profile: Josef Craig, Paralympic swimming champion


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The Independent Online

The Young Sports Personality of the Year, we know!

Sunday night's ceremony, which saw Bradley Wiggins bag the main trophy, peaked with an audience of 14.5 million people, with an average of 10.6 million tuning in over the entire BBC1 broadcast. It's a far cry from last year's all-male shortlist, which was only watched by a paltry 4.2 million. One of the highlights of this year's ceremony was watching 15-year-old Josef Craig collect his gong from Tom Daley.

Was he overwhelmed with emotion?

He didn't seem to be. "I'm not going to keep yers too long as I know there is a schedule to keep," he said. "I'd just like to say a big thanks to everybody who was involved in me getting that gold, as it was a big shock to me. I didn't expect it at all, so that was just an amazing part of my life." The gracious teen thanked "me mam and dad" and his friends at British Swimming.

Why did he win?

He faced tough competition from gymnast Rebecca Tunney and fellow Paralympic gold medal-winning swimmer Jessica-Jane Applegate, but Craig's win was one of the highlights of this summer's Games.

He smashed two seconds off the world record in winning the S7 freestyle final. Not only that, but he overcame a great personal struggle to get the gold. Craig, who suffers from mild cerebral palsy, was diagnosed with Graves' disease the year before the Olympics. The condition causes rapid weight loss, and he had to have his thyroid removed. But he took inspiration from his idol Muhammad Ali and battled to get back in the pool just in time. "It's not the worst illness in the world, let's be honest," he told the Telegraph. "I consider myself fortunate enough to have had such a curable illness."

Is he that rare find: a BBC Sports Personality with… a personality?

He certainly is, which is remarkable given that he's at an age where most his contemporaries can barely muster a grunt. He said his favourite moment of the whole ceremony was meeting Alan Shearer – but then he is from Jarrow in Tyne and Wear. And he's not afraid of venturing his opinion on athletes who take performance enhancing drugs, saying: "I totally disagree with drug taking in any shape or form."