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Norfolk Paralympian Jessica-Jane Applegate prepares to step up push for Rio 2016 qualification

Jessica-Jane Applegate at the London Fields SwimBritain event. Picture: Angus Thomson

Jessica-Jane Applegate at the London Fields SwimBritain event. Picture: Angus Thomson

© Angus M. Thomson

Gold medallist Jessica Jane-Applegate talks to reporter David Freezer about her hopes for the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

Great Britain's Jessica-Jane Applegate on the podium with her gold medal after the Women's 200m Freestyle - S14 Final at the Aquatics Centre, London. Picture: Chris Radburn/PAGreat Britain's Jessica-Jane Applegate on the podium with her gold medal after the Women's 200m Freestyle - S14 Final at the Aquatics Centre, London. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA

Norfolk swimmer Jessica-Jane Applegate is preparing to compete in more able-bodied competitions, as she steps up her push to qualify for the 2016 Rio Paralympics.

The 18-year-old won a gold medal in the S14 200m freestyle at the London 2012 Paralympics, to prompt a golden post box being installed in her home town of Belton, near Great Yarmouth.

Ever since, Applegate has been making plans to qualify for Rio 2016, working closely with City of Norwich Swimming Club head coach Alex Pinniger. Those preparations appear to be going well, after winning a silver and two bronze medals at the European Swimming Championships in Holland in July.

“I train mainly with able-bodied swimmers and they are always pushing me to swim faster,” Applegate said.

Prince Harry talks with Great Britain swimming gold medalist Jessica-Jane Applegate when he visited the Aquatics Centre during the London 2012 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Park this morning.  Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA WirePrince Harry talks with Great Britain swimming gold medalist Jessica-Jane Applegate when he visited the Aquatics Centre during the London 2012 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Park this morning. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

“I have recently competed at the Arena League with the (City of Norwich) club’s A team, I will be competing at regionals in December.

“I have qualified as an able-bodied swimmer as well as Para swimmer and I really hope to be competing next summer with my squad at able-bodied nationals if I manage to qualify. Anything is possible but I think the times to qualify for Rio 2016 as a Para swimmer will be very hard to reach so I will be concentrating on that.

“I have been lucky and had some very good role models within Para swimming so I have learnt a lot and hope to be a stronger athlete going forward to Rio.”

Applegate’s success does not come easily though. The former Ormiston Venture Academy pupil estimates she spends over 14 hours travelling for training every week, for over 16 hours of training in the pool, more than two hours of land training and three hours in the gym – as well as physio sessions and rowing with City of Norwich Rowing Club.

Jessica-Jane Applegate from Great Yarmouth is made an MBE by the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace.  Picture: Lewis Whyld/PA WireJessica-Jane Applegate from Great Yarmouth is made an MBE by the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace. Picture: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire

“We are very lucky living in Norfolk, we have some world class facilities and coaches so I have no plans on leaving this beautiful part of the country plus I wouldn’t leave my dogs!” continued Applegate, who has an autism spectrum disorder.

“However I do have to attend warm weather training camps and screening in Manchester, which is the High Performance Centre, but these are not very often and it is great meeting up with and working with my teams.”

Include volunteering for Faith Rescue Centre in Hickling, a dog grooming course at Easton & Otley College and ambassadorial work for Mencap and the Norwich City Community Sports Foundation, and you have got one extremely busy teenager. But, as she turns her attentions to trying to qualify for the World Swimming Championships in Glasgow next year, Applegate knows all the hard work will be worth it if she gets another shot at the Paralympics.

“I am very excited about the possibility of going to Brazil and would be very grateful of the opportunity but it will be incredibly tough to make the team,” Applegate added.

“I have never been to South America before so I will be trying my hardest to try and qualify for my second Paralympics and do best to make Norfolk proud.”

Applegate is a keen supporter of the British Gas Swim Britain initiative, which is working to get more people swimming regularly. For more tips on swimming, visit the project’s www.swimbritain.co.uk

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