May 24 2013 Latest news:
by Stephen Pullinger
Saturday, September 15, 2012
It was a homecoming parade Great Yarmouth style - on the resort’s famous land train.
And in honour of the borough’s very own Paralympics VIP, the locomotive was specially renamed the Jessica-Jane Applegate.
Wearing a smile as bright as the gold medal around her neck, the Gorleston girl acknowledged the cheers of spectators and toots of lorries with an endearing shyness that belied her new-found fame.
Setting off from the town hall shortly before 10am today, the train wended its way around a circuit that took in the quayside, Nottingham Way, St Peter’s Road, Deneside, King Street, the Market Place and The Conge.
All the way, clusters of wellwishers greeted her with cheers, waving flags and taking souvenir photographs. And each time Jessica-Jane obliged by holding up her prized medal.
In the Market Place, cheering reached a crescendo as shopping came to a halt and spectators crowded around the train.
Those watching spanned the generations with pensioners in disabled buggies alongside children in pushchairs.
Outside Palmers’ department store, the train briefly halted for staff to present the 16-year-old swimming star with a bouquet.
Returning to the town hall, Jessica-Jane, a student at Gorleston’s Ormiston Venture Academy, found a guard of honour awaiting her with local Olympic torch bearers, who had ignited the summer of sport, forming their torches into an arch.
The crowd patiently gathered in front of the town hall erupted in cheers as Jessica-Jane stepped on to the balcony to take her final bow.
Her morning’s work was completed with the unveiling of a plaque to mark her golden success in the 200m freestyle.
Her coach Alex Pinniger, head coach at the UEA swimming club, described the parade as “absolutely fantastic”.
He said: “A load of people have turned out and it is great for Yarmouth. It is fantastic for people to see what can be achieved through hard work and dedication.
“Jessica-Jane is in the pool from 5.30 to 7.30 in the morning and back at 4.30 to 7.30 every evening. On top of her talent she has the work ethic that makes a champion.”
He added that after a whirlwind four weeks, she would soon be back in training for the world championships in Canada next August.
Betty Brown, one of the torch bearers, said: “We were all rooting for her and she has helped to give the whole country, not just Yarmouth, a real lift.”
Yarmouth Mayor Colleen Walker, who had been waving a flag on the train, said: “I think she is going to inspire a generation of local youngsters. She has shown what a teenage girl can achieve.”
Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis said: “This parade brings home to Yarmouth what we have seen on the national stage.
“There is immense pride here in Yarmouth and people almost feel they own a part of Jessica-Jane.”
Jessica-Jane, who has Asperger syndrome, has already been honoured with a gold-painted postbox in Station Road South, Belton, close to the Railway Tavern run by her aunt.