Jessica-Jane Applegate is a British Paralympic swimmer. She lives with autism and competes in the S14, SB14, and SM14 classifications of events. Her strokes are freestyle and backstroke.
Jessica-Jane Applegate was born on August 22, 1996, in Great Yarmouth, England. When she was young, she was diagnosed with autism. Her mother put her into swimming lessons as a young child as a way to release her energy. She swam at the Lowestoft and Oulton Broad Swimming Club in Lowestoft, Norfolk, England. For her education, she attended Ormiston Venture Academy in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England. She also swam at school. At age 13, she had set regional records and was offered a spot in a UK sporting talent program.
“From the moment I first jumped in the water I knew that I wanted to swim, I felt like I could escape in the water and I could go to a safe place where no one could hurt me. I may not have been very good to start with but having a learning disability has never held me back from achieving my dreams.”Jessica-Jane Applegate
At the end of 2011, Applegate was told that she had the potential to compete at higher levels. During the Winter Wales open in 2011, Applegate had the second-fastest time in the world for the 50m and the third-fastest time for the Paralympic 200m Freestyle. At the beginning of 2012, she competed in the Berlin Open. She won bronze in the 50m and 100m freestyle. At the 2012 British Swimming Championship, she raced in the 200m freestyle and won gold! This race set a British record and qualified her for the Paralympics.
Her last meet before the Paralympics was the 2012 British International Disability Swimming Championships. At this meet, she won silver in the 50m and 100m freestyle races and took gold in the 200m freestyle. She then went off to compete in the 2012 London Summer Paralympics.
Her first event at the Paralympics was the 100m backstroke. During this race, she finished third in the finals and set a personal record. Her next race was the 200m freestyle in which she came in first for the finals. In the 200m freestyle, she shaved 2 seconds off her time and won gold! She also set a Paralympic record in this race. In fact, she was the first Brit with an intellectual disability to win gold at the Paralympics!
In 2013, Applegate represented Great Britain at the IPC World Championships in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Here she medaled gold in the 200m freestyle, silver in the 200m medley, and bronze in the 100m freestyle.
“I know that it isn’t easy for people with a learning disability. Lack of understanding about what a learning disability is means that things that everyone takes for granted are made impossible for people with a learning disability. But I’m proof that if you’ve got the right support, you can do anything and anything is possible.”Jessica-Jane Applegate
Most recently, Applegate swam from Great Britain in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Paralympics. From 2013 to the current day she has been an ambassador of Mencap, which is a UK charity that helps people with learning disabilities.