Josef Craig: Classification switch was tough for Paralympic champ

Paralympic swimming champion Josef Craig says a change in classification has been tough but he is pleased with three bronzes in the new class at the European Championships in Eindhoven.

Craig, 17, was reassessed before the European trials and moved from S7 to S8, despite an appeal.

Previously he picked up gold in the S7 class 400m freestyle at London 2012.

"It's been quite difficult but it's nice to see I'm still up there," Craig told BBC Look North.

"I'm still challenging for medals, but winning the medals isn't the important thing, it's about personal bests and improving.

"It's as long as I'm in a fighting fit state for the Rio Olympics in 2016 and events to come."

The Sunderland Swimming Club competitor, who lives with cerebral palsy, said he was always on the cusp of the S7 and S8 classifications.

In response to the appeal the International Paralympic Committee released a statement, which read: "Josef Craig was initially classed as an S7 swimmer in 2009 when he was 12 years old.

Classification descriptions - from the International Paralympic Committee

S7 SB6 SM7 S8 SB7 SM8

This profile is designated for athletes with one leg and one arm amputation on opposite sides, double leg amputations or a paralysis of one arm and one leg on the same side. Moreover, swimmers with full control over arms and trunk and some leg function can compete in this class.

Swimmers who have lost either both hands or one arm are eligible to compete in this sport class. Also, athletes with severe restrictions in the joints of the lower limbs could compete in this sport class.

"As it is not uncommon for swimmers with cerebral palsy to change class after a few years in the sport, they are subject to classification reviews.

"In April 2014 he was reclassified and moved from the S7 to S8 class, a decision British Swimming protested.

"The panel who looked into the protest agreed Craig should be an S8 class swimmer."

Going through an appeal, on top of the new challenges faced, made it a difficult period for the Hebburn-born Paralympian on the back of his S7 exploits.

"One minute you're a world champion, a Paralympic champion with world records to your name," Craig added.

"The next even though you're better than those times you're barely making finals, barely making European teams when you've been to the Paras and the Worlds.

"But I wouldn't have been able to go there in the first place if I hadn't had the amazing support of people like my mum and dad and the club."