Tremaine van Aardt email@example.com
PORT ELIZABETH swimmer Kevin Paul received a hero’s welcome yesterday when he arrived home an International Paralympic Committee World Swimming Championship gold medallist.
Paul, 22, delivered a sensational performance over the last 50m in the 100m breaststroke final to win the event in Montreal on Wednesday last week in a time of 1:05.85, more than a second ahead of his rivals.
The silver medal went to China’s Lin Furong, who finished in 1:07.68, with the bronze going to Russia’s Pavel Poltavtsev in 1:08.39.
"The win is the start of our bigger plan, as our focus is on Rio 2016. It is an overwhelming feeling coming out on top.
"[We] knew it would come down to myself and my Russian and Chinese competitors for the podium position. We always tend to switch the top three positions among ourselves,” he said.
Paul, who is a third-year law student at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, said it was the attention to detail which had set him apart in the final.
"My coach, Brian Elliot, and myself paid a lot of attention to the smaller aspects such as the launch from the podium, a good turn and good wall touch. These little things gave me the edge over the others.”
The two-time Paralympic medallist – he won gold in Beijing and silver in London last year – was welcomed home by more than 30 family and friends who sang, screamed and hugged their hero as he entered the arrivals terminal at the Port Elizabeth Airport.
Proud father Mervyn said he knew his son would finish in pole position after speaking to him shortly before the race.
"Kevin said to me, ‘Dad, I’m feeling so good. I’ve still got a lot of gas and I am going to burn it off tonight’. After the call I went to lie in Kevin’s room for about 20 minutes. I left the room with goosebumps and then I told my wife he was going to win.
"But even if he didn’t win, he would still be a champion to us. He put in the hours and we as a family are overjoyed that it is all paying off,” Mervyn said.
Katharina, Paul’s mother, found it hard to contain herself as her son approached her, welcoming him home with open arms.
"Everybody in the house shouted at the top of their lungs when we saw Paul win. I’m sure even the neighbours knew he was the champ,” she said smiling.
"His girlfriend of two years, Amy Ter Stege, said she was just happy to have her boyfriend home again.
"I am so happy he is finally home, I didn’t get any sleep last night [Tuesday] because I was so excited to see him. We are all very proud of him,” Ter Stege said.
Paul said he would recover over the next week and catch up with his studies before resuming training.