Future Voices: Inspirational Paralympic champion Jessica-Jane Applegate on her swimming career so far

Jessica-Jane Applegate. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Jessica-Jane Applegate. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

September 2, 2012. The London crowd goes wild as Britain's young talent Jessica-Jane Applegate wins gold in the S14 200m freestyle at the Paralympic games.

Not only does she win the event, but she sets a Paralympic record too, an outstanding achievement for the 16-year-old schoolgirl from Great Yarmouth. Can she repeat her success this summer in Rio?

It's amazing for us here, in East Anglia, to have someone as talented and successful as Jessica-Jane Applegate MBE originating from our region. Now 19, Jessica-Jane has already achieved so much at a young age and can surely only continue to go from strength to strength in the future, winning more medals and prestigious accolades in the process.

Jessica-Jane has showed the true spirt of Britain by overcoming adversity at every hurdle. Having learning difficulties has not held her back at any point and she has repeatedly shown her undoubted potential, by showing that anything is possible if you put in the hard work and believe in yourself.

Since conducting this interview, Jessica-Jane has been officially selected for Rio.

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I was lucky enough to conduct an interview with Jessica-Jane and here's what she had to say:

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What has been the highlight of your career so far?

'I had an amazing time at the London Paralympics and I don't think I will ever experience anything like it again, the home crowd were amazing and I was so lucky that my first ever major international competition was at home with some very experienced athletes who looked after me. In my first event, the 100m Backstroke, I came fourth in the finals, it was absolutely amazing because I didn't even make the finals at the trials in April 2012. I got a new British and Paralympic record in the heats of my 200m freestyle. Then in the finals, I got a new British and Paralympic record and became the first ever British S14 Paralympic champion. The whole experience was amazing!'

What was your first thought immediately after winning gold?

'Yippee, I'm getting a gecko!' I had a deal with a local pet shop owner on Gorleston high street and he promised that he would give me a crested gecko and the set up if I came back into his shop with a Gold medal. I have 9 geckos at the moment but Goldie was my first and still as beautiful as the first day I got her.'

How do you like to unwind when you aren't training?

'I don't really get much time off but when I do I love nothing more than spending it with my rescue dogs or at FAITH animal rescue in Hickling.'

What are you hoping to achieve in Rio?

'None of the swimmers have found out yet whether they are going to the Rio Paralympic Games or not. I do hope that I have done enough to prove I am worth taking. If I am selected I would love to get on the podium again; if I am not chosen I will be working hard towards the National Championships in the summer.'

What advice would you give to someone aiming to follow in your footsteps by overcoming adversity and achieving their dream?

'Get in touch with your local club because they will have a progression route or be able to advise you. You can also pop along to any of the disability sports events held all over the country. I am happy to help anyone via my Facebook page too if you'd like to send me a message.'

It was amazing to hear personally from Jessica-Jane and I'm sure we can all draw something from her hugely inspirational story. Hopefully we'll see her on our TV screens this summer and of course we wish her the best of luck in her respective events. No matter what, she'll make East Anglia extremely proud and encourage many budding swimmers to take up the sport despite your background or ability.

'Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'M POSSIBLE'!'- Audrey Hepburn

Jessica-Jane Applegate MBE's Facebook page.

Aaron Cahill, 17, from Attleborough

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