Jessica-Jane Applegate’s glory is creating Norfolk’s next generation of swimming stars, says coach

Jessica-Jane Applegate and her coach Alex Pinniger.

Jessica-Jane Applegate and her coach Alex Pinniger. - Credit: Archant

Jessica-Jane Applegate's success story is helping create the next wave of swimming talent across Norfolk.

That is the view of the golden girl's City of Norwich coach Alex Pinniger who has seen numbers at the club 'increase massively' since London 2012.

While he puts a lot of that down to the hard work of those involved with the growing outfit, the 16-year-old's mentor is certain the Paralympian is inspiring others to follow in her footsteps.

'The club is going from strength to strength. A lot of people in the club work very, very hard and Jessica is the icing on the cake,' said Pinniger.

'In the last two years the numbers in the squad have increased massively. There's 300 competitive swimmers now, and that's more than doubled from where we were. They do five to 22 hours a week in the pool and Jessica's success has helped that. It's a massive thing for Norwich and great for Norfolk as more people are now getting into the sport.'

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Applegate, who has Asperger's syndrome, shot to fame on a global scale by winning S14 freestyle 200m gold at last summer's home Paralympics.

The success put Belton, near Gorleston, on the map and saw her hometown's postbox painted gold in her honour. But one of the country's shining sporting lights hasn't slowed her desire to create even more history-making greatness since.

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The Great Britain international shaved 0.7secs off her own British 200m record at the national championships in Sheffield at the back end of June.

And that performance, which also set a world best, was just the start of things to come as she dominated the field in last week's IPC (International Paralympic Committee) world championships in Montreal, Canada.

She won gold – and broke her own world record – in a time of two minutes, 9.88 seconds, beating the 2:11.47 she set in Yorkshire earlier this year. She followed it up with a 100m backstroke S14 bronze and a stunning 200m individual medley SM14 silver – less than a year after she took up breaststroke to start competing in the category.

Pinniger said: 'Everyone in the club has been on Twitter saying how fantastic it is and how she's really made us all proud.

'All the younger swimmers want to be Jessica and all the parents see that. It brings the whole club together as she is very, very inspirational.'

A full set of medals, which included three personal bests, ended her year on the highest of highs. The swimming superstar is now taking a well-earned break from the pool and is looking forward to spending some time away from the competition arena.

Applegate told British Swimming's official YouTube channel: 'I'm definitely taking a break. I didn't have a break after London.

'So I'm definitely going to have a break this time. I'm going to go on holiday and I'll still be swimming. But I'm going to swim with dolphins so it will be a little bit different!'

The Paralympian was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for her services to swimming.

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