Swimming: Jessica-Jane Applegate goes all out to keep the GB teens on gold road
The Aquatics Centre
Monday 03 September 2012
Jessica-Jane Applegate arrived at the Paralympic Games with one British title and a pennant presented to her by the mayor of Great Yarmouth as the standout features of her trophy cabinet. The 16-year-old freestyler will go home with a gold medal to add to the showcase after snatching a dramatic victory in the Aquatics Centre last night. The next job for the mayor is to paint a post-box in the town gold.
While it may not have raised the roof quite as Ellie Simmonds had on Saturday night, another teenage success for Britain was greeted with a roar in a venue that is belatedly becoming used to home medals in the pool. Last night there were three more to add to a tally that now stands at 15.
The target set pre-Games was 40 to 50, alongside fourth or fifth in the swimming medal table, and with six more nights of finals to come Britain are on course to claim the required number. But to make fourth place in the table will need more to follow Simmonds and Applegate to gold rather than the rapidly expanding collection of silver and bronze. Team GB have gathered more silver than any other country but stand only seventh in the gold rush.
There were two bronzes last night, earned in the S12 100m butterfly races by James Clegg and Hannah Russell, who added it to her freestyle silver won last week. It left Clegg's family free to dash from the Aquatics Centre to the Olympic Stadium, where his sister ran to 100m silver half an hour later.
The 18-year-old Clegg, who has Stargardt's disease, a genetic deteriorating eye condition, exchanged text messages with his sister this morning. "She said, 'Listen to the crowd and they will carry you away'," Clegg reported. "I was planning to just put headphones on to come out, but she said no. It is brilliant to be competing at the same Games as my sister."
Teenage success was a feature of the women's swimming in the Olympics – to Britain's cost – and it has become equally so in the Paralympics, only with Britain joining in. Simmonds, who has more events to come after Saturday's stunning swim to gold, is 17 and Russell, like Applegate, is a year younger.
Applegate, who turned 16 just two weeks ago, was fourth at the halfway point more than one and a half seconds down on the leader, the Dutchwoman Marlou van der Kulk, and third as the field turned into the final length of the S14 200m freestyle. She swam the last 50m a second quicker than the field.
"I'm ecstatic," she said. "I really didn't think I'd be able to do something like that. At the last turn I could see how far ahead they were and I knew I had to give everything I had. It was my last race so I knew it didn't matter if I collapsed at the bottom of the pool."
There was a first Paralympic gold too for Mallory Weggeman. The 23-year-old American arrived in London with ambitions for a Phelpsesque performance. Two years ago at the World Championships she won eight golds and aimed to better that by one in London. But last week her classification was controversially altered from S6 to S8, pitting her against more able swimmers.
She said she had "lost faith" in the system but last night swept to victory in her new class, winning the 50m freestyle. Weggemann lost the use of her legs after a series of epidurals supposed to treat shingles not long before her 19th birthday.
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