My dream was within touching distance. I needed to remain healthy, keep my standard high and focus on my goal. On April 2012, we received the confirmation that I would become a Paralympian.
While not criticising achievements of ParalympicsGB, might the 11 million people living with disabilities in the UK have been better served by the money invested in the Paralympic GB squad, and what kind of post-Olympic legacy are we to expect from this investment?
I'm Jessica-Jane Applegate, I'm 20 years old and I'm an elite swimmer. I've competed in competitions all over the world, I've set over 75 new British Swimming records and I've won Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in London 2012 and Rio 2016 and in 2013 was given an MBE. I also have a learning disability.
I saw a post on Twitter today that really angered me. One of our Gold medal winning Paralympians, Sophie Christiansen OBE, had been stranded on a train because Great Western had not ensured there was a ramp for her when she arrived at Paddington Station.
But for me, as a person with a disability I've had since birth, having the opportunity to watch the Paralympics means so much more to me than just being an "inspiration" in the most sentimental of senses.
The media are slowly improving with greater representation and visibility but really the way disabled people are represented needs to be more carefully considered. Producers and editors need to ensure they are represented as an equal member of society and that their own stories are represented in a way that they are happy with. I don't believe disability always has to be viewed as a negative thing.
Everyone hopes that with a map. a GPS and a Guide Dog you can't get lost even if you are blind. But you can and my route map to the Paralympics in Rio led to a cul de sac.
As the Rio 2016 Paralympics continue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, international attention of varying degree is being given to this second round of Olympic sport galore, involving persons who have disabilities.
There are still many people who think disabled people are far more limited than they are, that they need constant care or are unable to do the simplest tasks. So seeing disabled people achieving incredible things in such a well publicised event like The Paralympics can be a great way to educate the public about what having a disability is actually like.
The first ever National Boccia Day will take place on Saturday 17th September in sports clubs up and down the country. Organisers say that the day is being held to coincide with the Paralympic Games in Rio where the sport is one of the flagship events for disabled athletes. But still not many people know what boccia is, so with the help of a UK boccia coach, here is a little explainer.
With the Olympics, every single sporting event was filmed by the host broadcaster and was available for audiences to watch. With the Paralympics, it has been a completely different story. There are currently no television cameras being used at all to record some sporting events including the rowing. As a result, Channel 4 resorted to sending their own camera crews out to the rowing venue so viewers in the UK could enjoy at least some sort of coverage. When a country can't even commit to providing cameras and live coverage of all sporting events, should they even be allowed to host the games?
I have not been watching the Paralympics, not because I do not have admiration for our athletes, but simply because I have never enjoyed watching any kind of sport. I have always enjoyed taking part in a range of sports, knowing I may not be good at it as it is about having fun for me.
While many people are being inspired by our amazing Paralympic athletes I relate more with another group of important people during these games... the Paralympic parents and this is my letter to them.
I have trained most of my life to reach the top level in sport, and there are many more athletes like me who are being excluded from being able to compete at the highest level. We need to see better equality for athletes with a learning disability.
Watching the new Maltesers adverts that launched during the Paralympics on Channel 4 has made me realise just how important, but also how easy, this normalised representation is to achieve. In three 20 second adverts, those with disabilities are seen as sexually active, attractive and popular, but most of all as people having a laugh with their friends and colleagues when telling awkward, brilliant and hilarious stories that many of us can relate to.
Our present economic model, which could be described as 'take, make, dispose', has generated significant improvements in our standard of living, but is also harming us. According to the World Health Organisation, each year twenty times more people die of diseases linked to mismanagement of waste and pollutants than die from malaria.