Paralympic Gold medallist Jessica gets seal of apporval!

GORLESTON’S golden girl Jessica-Jane Applegate has been enjoying pampering sessions and getting up close with some furry - and scaly - friends since returning from her medal winning performance at the Paralympic Games.

The 16-year-old swimmer, who came first in the women’s S14 200m freestyle, has been using her profile to give something back to the community she loves, making personal appearances including presenting medals at her old swimming club.

But she has also had the chance to explore her other occupation - that of an animal lover.

She has not forgotten her record breaking and was back in training shortly after returning home, working hard towards the short course national swimming championships to be held in Sheffield on November 24.

She also competed in the City of Norwich Swimming Club Championships last weekend where she broke the British record in the 50m butterfly and in the 100m butterfly.

Before leaving for London she had a rescued seal named after her, and the flame haired teen was so eager to get back to visit the animal to see how it was was recovering, she raced over to Hunstanton Sea Life Centre as soon as she was back in Norfolk.

She surprised staff by turning up at the centre the very next morning, wearing her medal.

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She was taken to feed the seal - now known as JJ - in an outdoor enclosure it has moved to after making good progress in returning to health.

Jessica-Jane said she was “really happy to see how well JJ is doing”, as she fed her and other recovering rescue seals.

JJ has gained so much weight that she will be released soon, with her handlers optimistic about her ability to fend for herself out at sea.

Before heading to the games, the swimmer was taken with a certain circus dog act she had seen at the Summer Spectacular at the Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus, so the next stop was to visit Peter Jay.

She had asked Peter if she could meet the pooch stars Scruffy and Charlie when she returned, and, true to his word, the theatre owner invited her back stage where she not only met Scruffy but the entire hippodrome cast and had a tour of the museum.

Another promise made to Jessica-Jane doubled as an unusual but clearly effective incentive.

Sean Shuckford, owner of Reef and Reptile aquatic and reptile store on Gorleston High Street promised her a “Crested Gecko” if she brought back a medal.

And upon her visit to the store Sean presented her with the reptile and the equipment to feed it and house it.

Sean said: “Whether Jessica got a medal or not I was going to sort her out a gecko.

“Just for her to qualify to represent Great Britain is incredible and the race was so exciting.

“We are all so proud she came home to Great Yarmouth with the gold. It’s the very least I could do for her’.

Jessica-Jane thanked Fusion Hair and Beauty Consultants on Gorleston High Street for spoiling her rotten with hair treatments and a nail pampering session the day before her homecoming parade through Yarmouth three weeks ago.

She has visited the gold post box painted in her honour outside her aunt Vicki’s pub, the Railway tavern in Belton, where she has happily posed for pictures with fans.

Finally, Jessica-Jane took time out on a Saturday evening to return to her old club - Lowestoft and Oulton Broad Swimming Club - to present medals to all the swimmers participating in the tenth Suffolk Disability event.

Jessica-Jane said: “It was great to see everyone again, especially Andy Walker who coached me for years.”

Jessica took her medal for Andy to see and posed for photographs with other swimming clubs, children and families.

She added: “Everyone’s support has been amazing and I can’t thank you all enough.”