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Swim champ Rafael Bags a Briish title.

RAFAEL BAGOTT is the North East's newest British swimming champion.

The 14-year-old member of Newburn amateur swimming club is impressing on a national scale.

The Heaton Manor student clinched first place at the British championship selection trials - setting a new S13 British record for 100 metres fly in the heats with a time of 1:01.32. Rafael is a focused individual with a love for swimming and high hopes for the future.

His aim is to represent the UK in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympics, but recent success means qualification for London 2012 is now a possibility at the International Disability Championships over Easter.

The s13 category is for visually impaired athletes who have less than 20 degrees of vision.

Rafael's sight was damaged when he developed a type of eye cancer called retinoblastoma in both eyes at the age of two - this resulted in the removal of his right eye and the usage of a prosthetic replacement.

Treatment on his left eye was more successful - his sight was saved but his vision still remained poor.

"Ever since I was a little boy I wanted to jump in," he said.

"I once jumped in a pool with all my clothes on and my dad had to pull me out!" Since then, Rafael has been dedicated to swimming.

He joined the regional disability team in 2010, and now trains 17 hours a week with Newburn Swimming Club and is part of the British Disability Development programme.

The selection trials were held in the London Aquatics Centre - the swimming venue for London 2012 and an opportunity that Rafael relished.

"I enjoyed myself and it was a wonderful experience to swim in the Olympic pool with top swimmers in the country," he said.

"To win a gold was very exciting!

I plan to continue competing in disability events and achieve my long-term goals, I'm hoping to go to Rio in 2016."

Meanwhile, Newburn have enjoyed success closer to home in the County Championships.

They finished top of the medal table with three county champions - James Row, Lauren Hodgson and Christopher Heppell.

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CHAMPION Rafael Bagott
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Apr 2, 2012
Words:355
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