Borough waves off Paralympian Jessica-Jane

SWIMMING hopeful Jessica-Jane Applegate is preparing to perform for town and country at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Local support for the 15-year-old who suffers Aspergers will focus on the Railway Tavern in Belton, run by her aunt Vicki Applegate, where all the drama will be played out on big screens in front of cheering regulars, wearing their proud support on specially printed T-shirts.

A record worldwide crowd is set to watch the Paralympics with more tickets sold than ever before, but Jessica-Jane from Gorleston - who last Wednesday was wished the best of luck from, and honoured by Mayor of Yarmouth Colleen Walker with a Great Yarmouth borough pennant - is taking it all in her stride, her focus firmly on her performance.

And she revealed she may even wear her Norwich swim team hat under her official Team GB Olympics one, which she prefers.

The dedicated teen's focus and drive to achieve has seen her miss her school prom and postpone her 16th birthday which falls during the competition, until after the games.

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Coach Alex Pinniger of UEA says that Jessica-Jane took to swimming immediately, and was not expected to reach the level she has so quickly. This year she stormed to two gold and two bronze medals at the German International Championships in Berlin.

She is also the British champion at 200m freestyle.

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But she does admit to being daunted by the prospect of competing in the biggest sporting event of all time.

'It is scary, I am just looking forward to the stressful bit being over so I can enjoy the Olympic Village and park.'

She is said to have a very good chance of winning and nowhere will they be praying for the podium more than at the Railway Tavern.

On the mornings of Jessica-Jane's events the pub doors will open early, a big screen TV will show the races.

Jessica-Jane's mother, Dawn, said: 'Her family are very excited for her, she has quite a following.

'We are keeping it quite calm, she is under a lot of pressure. I am very impressed with how she is coping with it.

'She is looking forward to her birthday party when she gets back, it gives her something else to focus on.'

Mr Pinniger said Jessica-Jane is also a massive animal lover, and one of the highlights of her Olympic journey so far is having a rescued seal pup at the Hunstanton Sea Life Sanctuary named after her.

Jessica-Jane's races take place on the mornings of Friday, August 31 - the 100m backstroke heats - and Sunday, September 2 - the morning heats of the 200m freestyle.

Use the search tool on the Great Yarmouth Mercury website to read more about Jessica-Jane's journey.

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