Jessica-Jane Applegate overcomes accidents and injury to win bronze
- Credit: PA Wire
Two serious car accidents, a whiplash injury, a year out of the water and mental health issues aren't an ideal build up to swim at the Paralympics.
But it's what Great Yarmouth's Jessica-Jane Applegate faced and overcame as she claimed improbable bronze in the S14 200m freestyle in Tokyo.
Applegate has jealously guarded her base in Norwich, choosing to stay there and commute two hours each day to avoid moving to the national centre in Loughborough.
It meant that when Covid struck, she was unable to train and her sole exposure to the water was a hot tub in her garden. She only returned in a full pool in April.
On the drive to training in May Applegate was cut up on a roundabout and hit by a vehicle, badly damaging the front of the car, and writing it off.
The 25-year-old had to borrow money from her mum and had only been driving her new car for two days when another drove into the back of her while she was stationery.
"It's been an absolutely insane year," she said.
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"It's been one thing after another and I've really battled with my mental health coming into this Games. My friends, family and coach have been phenomenal.
It's no wonder she doubted whether she'd make her third Games, not least because of the ongoing shoulder problems caused by the whiplash from both accidents.
"I had a hideous day on the first day when everything got to me at once," she said.
"I felt homesick in the build-up and that was my main event, so the stress of that hit me. I came out today just to prove a point, that I'm still here and I'm going to do my best."
Applegate has been a star of global Para swimming for a decade, winning gold as a teenager at London 2012 in the 200m freestyle.
She emerged from Rio 2016 with three medals, including silver in the four-long freestyle event.
Five years later she kept her place on the podium in the event with a swim of guts and glory, touching the wall in a time of 2:09.53 ahead of Louise Fiddes in fourth place.
Applegate was sandwiched between Brits with close friend Bethany Firth taking silver, a full 5.54 seconds ahead of her team-mate.
It was the Norfolk star's fifth Paralympic medal and there's no contest when it comes to the one that took the most blood, sweat and tears.
"This has definitely been the one I've had to work the hardest to win," she said. "It means the most and I wouldn't have got there without other people."