London – When Kevin Paul’s plane touches down in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday afternoon he will be able to walk tall, donning the silver medal he won at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
Paul set a new African record to finish second in the men’s SB9 100m breaststroke final on Saturday, in 1:05.70, behind Russia’s Pavel Poltavtsev in a world record 1:04.02.
“I can’t wait to get home, although I have loved being in London,” Paul said.
“The team spirit has been great, and living in the village was amazing.”
Having won the gold medal four years ago in Beijing, Paul was slightly disappointed after his race.
“Pavel wasn’t around in Beijing and when he came on the scene and started to do good times, it really pushed me,” said the 21-year-old law student at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
“He slashed my world record and that really motivated me.
“It was a wake-up call and since then he’s been the guy to beat.”
Paul said he managed to take back his world record in April and hoped he had caught up with Poltavtsev, but this was not to be.
“I caught up with him by pushing really hard, but he just went faster than me in the race.”
Born with no pectoral muscles in the left side of his chest and a shorter left arm, Paul had to adapt his swimming stroke to use mainly his shoulder muscles.
He spent a week of endurance training at the Stellenbosch Sports Academy under the watchful eye of leading biokineticist Karen Hugo.
The focus in Stellenbosch was on building endurance, which would stand him in good stead and helped cover all the bases for the Paralympics.
“The whole build-up to the Games has been amazing and the support from the people of South Africa, my family and friends and the Port Elizabeth community had been fantastic,” he said.
“No one trains to come second, as everyone wants gold, but so many athletes are going to leave here with nothing to show except memories.
“So to give a silver medal for my country is wonderful.
“I’m really happy with it and I can’t complain. It’s the best time that I’ve ever done, but that guy just went faster than me. Hats off to him.” – Sapa