Jessica Ashwood (2011)

Jessica Ashwood (2011) represented Australia in Freestyle Swimming at two Olympic Games 鈥 London in 2012 and Rio in 2016, winning Silver at Rio in the women鈥檚 4 x 200m relay. In the 2015 World Championships she set new Australian records in the 400m Freestyle and in the 1500m Freestyle, and at the 2018 Commonwealth Games she won Silver in Women鈥檚 800m Freestyle.

Jessica kicked off her remarkable swimming career when she won two silver medals (400m and 800m freestyle) and two bronze medals (4x100m and 4x200m freestyle) at the 2009 Australian Youth Olympic Festival and 2010 she was selected for the Junior Pan Pacific Team in Maui. She finished with a bronze medal in the 400m freestyle, and she also finished fourth in the 800m.The same year she swam at Oceania in Samoa, where she won a bronze medal in the 800m freestyle. In 2011 Jessica was selected to her first senior team when she competed in the 1500m freestyle at the World Championships in Shanghai.

In 2012 Jessica qualified for her first Olympic Games, swimming the 800m freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics. Also that year, at the New South Wales State Championships she broke the Australian National Record in the 800m freestyle.

In February 2014 at the NSW Championships, Jessica became the first Australian woman to record under 8:20 in the 800 meter freestyle. Later that year she competed at both the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and the Pan Pacific Championships. She then won the 800m freestyle at the Japan Open, at the World Championships in Russia she won her first World Championship medal in the 400 meter freestyle. In a close fought final 50 meters, she claimed the bronze.

At the Australian Olympic Trials for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Jessica took the title in the 400 and 800 meter freestyle. She then swam in these races as well as the 4x200 freestyle relay, leading to a silver medal in the relay.

In the Summer 2016 edition of Lucis, just after her win at the Rio Olympic Games, Jess reported that her training regime involved gym, boxing and yoga as well as eleven swim sessions a week. At the time, she was working towards the Commonwealth Games in 2018 on the Gold Coast, saying that competing “in front of a home crowd has been a dream of mine”. When asked to give her advice to 水多多导航 School students she stated: “Believe that you can do it. A lot of the time it isn’t other people that hold us back but ourselves.”

Scoliosis

When she was 13-year-old Jessica was diagnosed with a mild case of scoliosis. A year later her condition had become severe with the curves in her spine reading in the mid 40 degrees. Over time gravity causes this condition to progress and so surgery would usually have been performed at this time. But as Jessica wasn’t in any pain, and she knew it would mean giving up competitive swimming, she chose to delay surgery until she was finished with her swimming career.

Jessica therefore had to learn how to compete with a curved torso, and to adjust her mindset that misjudged her ‘straightness’. Her perception was that she was linear but her stroke was out of alignment, something that was only revealed via video coaching sessions. She had to learn to ignore her perception and to swim using a technique that to her felt like she was flailing around or “trying to swim in a circle”.

The challenges Jessica conquered were enormous. Her remarkable swimming career and the fact that her scoliosis precluded her from any land-based training like running or weightlifting, makes her accomplishments all the more extraordinary. Jessica held three national records, one of which (800m) only fell at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. She was described by the Sydney Morning Herald as “a genuine once-in-a-generation talent”.

Soon after Jessica’s retirement from competitive swimming in 2018 an increase in her discomfort as the curves in her spine reached the mid 60 degree range meant it was time to have corrective surgery. After a long and painful recovery in hospital, her torso also had to rearrange itself to her new posture, and muscles that had barely been used before had to strengthen. Her full recovery was a long physical and mental ordeal.

Jessica, now 10cm taller, is again swimming and competing in triathlons. In 2019 she graduated with a degree in criminology and criminal justice from Griffith University where a she was also a member of the Griffith Sports College and was the Griffith ambassador for the MS (Multiple sclerosis) Swimathon.


Resources:

https://www.smh.com.au/sport/swimming/standing-tall-jessica-ashwood-is-finally-on-the-straight-and-narrow-20190515-p51nqs.html