December 8 2013 Latest news:
Monday, September 9, 2013
Dedicated Paralympian Jessica-Jane Applegate could add to her collection of medals with a Stars of Norfolk award.
The 17-year-old, from Gorleston, who has Asperger’s syndrome, is up for Outstanding Sporting Achievement of the year.
She won gold in the 200m freestyle at last summer’s Games - the first Brit to achieve Paralympic gold in the S14 category.
The teenager also became a world champion after winning gold in the 200m freestyle S14 race at the International Paralympic Committee World Swimming Championships in Montreal, Canada, last month.
She was made an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours list for her services to swimming in March.
Her mother, Dawn Applegate, 39, said: “She works incredibly hard. She is very dedicated. Her attitude to training is incredible. There is something out there for everybody and Jess is a great role model for that.”
Miss Applegate, who loves animals, nail art and dyeing her hair bright colours, was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome aged four.
Because of the condition she found it difficult to concentrate at school and speak to people.
Her mother said: “I taught her to swim when she was less than one year old. It was not technically correct but included basic survival skills. Because we live near the sea and rivers I think it should be second nature to be able to swim.
“She was not very competitive, she just swam for enjoyment and mainly because she was hyperactive. The more she swam the better she got at school. It got rid of her nervous energy. For any child with ADHD sport is a wonder. The more Jess swam the more she could concentrate.”
When she was young, the Paralympian swam at Burgh Castle Holiday Park and when she was 10 she joined the Lowestoft and Oulton Broad Swimming Club.
For the past three years she has been training at the City of Norwich Club, based at the Sportspark on the University of East Anglia campus.
Her favourite stroke is the 50m freestyle, known as the splash and dash, and she is coached by Alex Pinniger from the City of Norwich club.
The teenager’s mother said Jess’ memory suffers because of the Asperger’s syndrome so Mr Pinniger has to repeat instructions a lot of the time.
“Her coach has worked wonders. Jess doesn’t communicate very well. It takes her a long time to build up trust. Over the three years Jess and Alex have built up a good athlete and coach relationship,” the teenager’s mother added.
The Paralympian, who studied at Ormiston Venture Academy at Gorleston, only has two days off training a week.
A typical training day would start at 5.15am, followed by two hours of swimming, an hour of land-based exercises, and another two and a half hours in the pool.
She an ambassador for the Norwich City Football Club Sports Foundation and is currently studying for a two-year sporting excellence course through Loughborough University, due to finish next year.
The deadline for nominations is Monday, September 30 and the winners will be announced on Friday, October 18 at St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich.