TOP Port Elizabeth Paralympic swimmer Kevin Paul made a triumphant return from Brazil yesterday with three gold medals – and immediately announced he would be leaving to further his career in Durban.
Paul, 22, excelled in the Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo last week, picking up gold medals in the 50m and 100m SB9 breaststroke events, as well as the 200m individual medley.
He also came fourth in the 50m freestyle and was the second-placed swimmer in the championships overall in terms of points earned.
Yesterday, Paul’s father, Mervyn, said his son would be linking up with national coach Graham Hill in Durban from the end of next month as he aimed to take his career higher.
Mervyn said the family felt the move was necessary to give Paul, who lives in Humewood, greater competition in training, with Hill in charge of a squad with some of the world’s best swimmers, including SA Olympic hero Chad le Clos.
At the same time, Mervyn paid tribute to Paul’s Port Elizabeth coach, Brian Elliot, who has played a huge role in guiding him to his present heights.
“We are very grateful for what Brian has done because he has been instrumental in helping Kevin get to where he is, but we feel it is time for a move where Kevin will be able to compete against top-class swimmers in training on a regular basis,” Mervyn said.
Paul echoed his father’s comments on Elliot, and said he was nervous and excited about the next phase of his career.
“I have been with Brian for about eight years, and really could not have asked for better,” he said.
“But I have made so many sacrifices in swimming that it’s now time for it to start paying off and I want to put in everything I need to achieve what I can. I am a bit nervous because I will be surrounded by Olympians in training and will no longer be leading the way.
“But it is a change I need and I am excited by this new challenge.”
Paul will be aiming to build on his efforts in Brazil when he joins Hill at the end of next month and competes in the Mare Nostrum series in Europe and at Pescara, in Italy, in July.
In Sao Paulo, against top opposition from around the world, Paul confirmed his world-class status by swimming the fastest time of the year in the SB9 50m breaststroke, producing his best mark ever by breaking the 30-second mark (29.09) for the event. – Neale Emslie