Page last updated at 15:29 GMT, Sunday, 14 September 2008 16:29 UK

Golden swimmer with a will to win

David Roberts
David Roberts celebrates his fourth Beijing gold - and eleventh in total

Welsh swimmer David Roberts has secured his place in Paralympics history in Beijing with his eleventh gold medal.

He equalled fellow Welsh athlete Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson's haul with his world record time in the 50m freestyle.

But Roberts, 28, from Llantwit Fardre, near Pontypridd, could go one better on Monday, when he races for his 12th gold in the 4x100m medley relay.

Roberts attended Bryn Celynnog Comprehensive school in Beddau, a school with a real sporting pedigree.

It has helped produce rugby stars such as Neil Jenkins and Michael Owen and badminton player Kelly Morgan.

Bryn Celynnog head of PE Martin Sallam said Roberts "was not an obvious sportsman" in school but had a huge desire to be successful.

"From a 5ft 2in skinny little lad he had this growth spurt and he's now a 6ft strapping athlete," he said.

[L-R]: Matthew Walker, Graham Edmunds, David Roberts

Every staff meeting we have it's been a case of 'David has got another gold medal'

School head of PE Martin Sallam on David Roberts, pictured right

"His development since he left school has been phenomenal but that determination and desire were there from the word go."

Mr Sallam said staff and pupils were extremely proud of Roberts, who takes part in sports presentation evenings and has coached swimmers at the school.

"We're delighted as a school, as you can imagine," he said.

"Every staff meeting we have it's been a case of 'David has got another gold medal'."

Roberts was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 11 and was told that swimming was the best form of physiotherapy.

He was swimming for Wales by the age of 14 before representing Great Britain in European events five years later.

He has now won 11 golds - and 16 medals in total - at successive Paralympics in Sydney, Athens and Beijing, besides numerous other golds at world and European events.

Age: 28
Born: 25 May, 1980 in Pontypridd
Height: 187cm (6ft 1in)
Coach: Former miner Billy Pye at Wales National Pool, Swansea
Favourite football team: Cardiff City
Paralympic honours: Sydney - three gold, three silver, one bronze; Athens - four gold, one silver; Beijing - four gold

In 2005, he was awarded an MBE for services to sport.

Roberts, who trains at the Wales National Pool in Swansea, attributes coach Billy Pye, a former miner, as playing a big role in his success.

He says of Pye: "I've got complete trust in him. If he tells me to do something, I do it. "I may not always like it, but I know there's got to be a good reason for it."

Roberts, who coaches the south Wales-based Dragons Disabled Swimming Club, has a gruelling training regime which means 16 hours a week in the pool and regular gym sessions.

He sets high standards for himself and was critical of his performance in the 400m freestyle final in Beijing despite winning gold and breaking the world record.

"It wasn't a great swim, I wanted to go seven seconds quicker, but it's a gold medal," he said after the race.

Tomorrow I'm actually going to enjoy racing for once - there's no more 'Are you going to get 11' questions, they're gone

David Roberts

But he was honoured to equal the feat of Cardiff-born Grey-Thompson.

"Tanni Grey-Thompson is probably the greatest Welsh athlete there has ever been," said Roberts, who won the 50m for a third straight Games.

"To be level with her is unbelievable. It's something I couldn't even dream would ever happen but luckily it has.

"Tomorrow I'm actually going to enjoy racing for once - there's no more 'Are you going to get 11' questions, they're gone," added Roberts.

He already has his sights set on London 2012.

"I'm just going to keep going. London is next. I'm a greedy boy - I'm going to defend my titles in London.

"But four years is a long time, I'll be quite a lot older by then - but I'll still be fast."

That enthusiasm to keep striving for success is no surprise to his former PE teacher.

"For a young lad to come in to school and say 'I want to be good at this, I want to be the best I can' is unusual for a kid of that age," said Mr Sallam.

"But David wanted it and, coupled with that growth spurt and his single-mindedness, he's got the success he desired."

Roberts & Simmonds shine in pool
14 Sep 08 |  Paralympics
Welsh eyes on Paralympics glory
06 Sep 08 |  Paralympics
Roberts twice lowers world record
25 Apr 08 |  Paralympics
Welsh swimmers claim three golds
13 May 07 |  Paralympics
Roberts strikes gold again for GB
05 Dec 06 |  Paralympics
Roberts swims to bronze for Wales
20 Mar 06 |  Commonwealth Games
Roberts leads golden haul
26 Sep 04 |  Paralympics
Roberts seals pool treble
23 Sep 04 |  Paralympics


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