Lewis White became the first member of the Derbyshire Institute of Sport (DIS) programme to win a Paralympic medal after swimming to 400m S9 bronze in Rio.
The 16-year-old from Swadlincote, who collected his GSCE results at Pingle School this summer, finished third behind Australian World record holder Brenden Hall and Italy’s Federico Morlacchi.
The City of Derby swimmer touched home in four minutes 21.38 seconds to make worthwhile all the early mornings training alongside Olympic champion Adam Peaty under the guidance of coach Mel Marshall.
The teenager, also supported by the ICON bursary programme, described his success on Twitter as ‘unexpected’ and had begun the year with the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics as a target.
But after qualifying at the Para-Swimming International Meet in April, which doubled as the British Paralympic Trials, Lewis has trained extremely hard around his studies to realise his dream four years earlier.
Proud mum Jo Smith said: “I’m just stunned really, overwhelmed with the support and messages and very emotional and teary.
“It was completely unexpected, so will obviously take some time to sink in, but he totally deserves it, as he works so, so hard.”
Lewis has been helped by the DIS through strength and conditioning and physio, which has helped him improve his core strength and assists in the prevention of injury.
Like other athletes on the programme, Lewis also has access to expert coaching and nutritional and lifestyle advice.
The South Derbyshire swimmer has more chances to go for goal later in other disciplines, including the 100m freestyle and 100m backstroke.
He may also be included in the team to compete in the 4x100m freestyle 34 points relay.