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Will Martin becomes Paralympic pool king on golden night for Australia in pool

Will Martin on the podium with his gold medal after the S9 400m freestyle final.

Will Martin on the podium with his gold medal after the S9 400m freestyle final. Credit:Getty

“If you’d have gone back five years ago and said he was going to win Paralympic gold medals, I would have said no chance,” Proud told the Herald. “It’s funny how things can change and work out.

“The last 18 months have been exceptional.”

The 20-year-old shaved 0.14 seconds off his world record to clock 58.14 in a sizzling morning heat.

Seldom are world records broken in heats, but even rarer is the feat of smashing a 100m world record by nearly a second.

Martin, a Sunshine Coast native who trains under Proud at the Nudgee College Swim Club, turned in first place in his preferred event before finding another gear to slash his previous world record by 0.95 of a second.

“I didn’t really have anything left in the tank,” Martin said after stopping the clock at 57.19. “The last 10 metres, that’s when I was really stinging, but everything before that just felt really good in the water.

“Everything is going well because of my support network I’ve got at home. I have a great coach. If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Proud says Martin tried to hide his disability from friends at school.

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Martin ruptured his cerebral aneurysm at age six but eight weeks later, after it was repaired, it re-ruptured and caused a stroke. Martin had to learn to walk and talk again but wasn’t perturbed, taking up swimming as a form of rehabilitation.

He loved every moment.

In high school, Martin was still swimming against able-bodied athletes before making the decision to try para-swimming.

“I’ve got to thank Mum back home for getting me here,” Martin said on Channel Seven. “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here. [She was there for] all those months spent next to me when I was in that hospital bed.”

Proud shares a tale that typifies how much his protégé loves training.

“He used to do a school initiative every Tuesday morning when he was in grade 11 and 12, where he would go and feed the homeless breakfast each week,” Proud said.

“I remember him being a little annoyed as he was missing training. It seems silly now but that’s the type of person he is.

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“He tried to hide his disability at the start. When he was like 15 or 16 he probably looked at it as a point of embarrassment. He’s quite a shy person. He’s just more comfortable with himself now.

“People could easily throw excuses around because of [a stroke]. In terms of being an athlete, he’s gone to the next level over the last 18 months. We’ve worked hard on his turn and that was where he pulled away. Never easy in that environment but so pleased for him.”

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