Week 115 (12 - 18 December 2015)
Jessica-Jane Applegate MBE yet again proved her star credentials at the National Para-Swimming Championships 2015 in Manchester this week, building on her London 2012 Paralympic Games success by breaking two world records at the Manchester Aquatics Centre.
Up against several Rio 2016 hopefuls in the S14 class for people with an intellectual impairment, Applegate refused to let the pressure affect her performance. In both the 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly, she swam world-record times of 59.04 and 1:07.28 respectively – showing how, at only 19 years of age, she is a dominant force in Paralympic swimming.
But Applegate's influence also extends well beyond the pool. Last month she became an ambassador for the International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability (INAS) – an organisation which has helped her achieve her dreams as an athlete – and she is now charged with using the recognition she has earned in the water to make a difference out of it.
From her initial communications, it is clear that INAS has chosen well in making Applegate an ambassador.
In a statement on INAS' website, she declared that the charity had "[made] it possible for people with an intellectual disability to be able to compete at an international level. They open up the pathway to enable athletes like myself to compete on the international stage against the best intellectually disabled athletes in the world. I have no doubt this has helped me become the Paralympic athlete I am today."
The fact that Applegate has directly benefitted from INAS' work in removing barriers and changing attitudes in sport gives her words extra traction, as does her genuine sense of gratitude.
In addition to her statement, Applegate has also engaged social media in her ambassadorial role. Last month via Twitter she encouraged her followers to tweet their support for INAS as it reached the final stages of Starbucks' #RedCupCheer initiative – a contest open to small charities to win up to £1,000 – and they paid attention. On 14 December, the federation announced it had won much needed funding from Starbucks.
Throughout the past month, Applegate has shown herself to be the perfect spokesperson for INAS and, given her sporting success and the federation's financial success in the past month, it appears they are both heading towards a bright future.