Brazilian Paralympic star the new Phelps? No, he's Dias

 Rio de Janeiro, Sep 9 (AFP) Brazil's star Paralympic swimmer Daniel Dias tore off to a gold winning start in Rio, but don't call him another Michael Phelps -- Dias is busy writing his own name in history.

With a gold late last night in the 200 meter freestyle 15, Dias, who was born with congenital malformation of his arms and right leg, now has 16 medals and is closing in on becoming one of the most decorated Paralympians of all time.

At stunning speed, the 28-year-old delighted the raucous Brazilian home crowd by beating US swimmer Roy Perkins by 10 seconds. What's scary for opponents is he has eight more events to go.

That's where the Phelps comparisons come in. The US swimmer -- the most decorated Olympian in any sport -- retired at the close of the Rio Summer Games in August with a haul of 28 medals, 23 of them gold.

Dias is catching up, but says he has his own story to tell.

"I'm Daniel Dias and I want to build my own legacy. But I'm happy to be compared to a great athlete," he told AFP.

It's possible that Dias will go all the way in Rio, reaching 24 medals. That would take him past the current record holder for Paralympic male swimming medals, Australian Matthew Cowdrey, who has 23 -- although way off the astonishing 55 medals for the now retired US swimmer Trischa Zorn.

If Dias competes again in Tokyo 2020, he'd even have a chance to overtake Phelps.

"I never think about this," he says. "That's true. I just try to do my best and to swim well. The medal is the consequence of that work." 

Dias became Brazil's most successful Paralympic athlete during the London 2012 Games. And the emotion in the swimming arena on Thursday was intense.

"He is the champion!" chanted the delirious crowd -- including his two sons, wife and parents -- before breaking into the national anthem.

"It was more emotional than I could have imagined," he said afterwards. MORE (AFP). 

PTI