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News & Media > Alumnae Awards > 2022 Alumnae Award Recipients > Jessica Ashwood (2011)

Jessica Ashwood (2011)

2022 Young Alumnae Award for Sporting Achievement
Jessica Ashwood (2011)
Jessica Ashwood (2011)

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

Jessica conquered enormous challenges, presented by severe scoliosis, on her path to success. She had to learn how to compete with a curved torso, to adjust her mindset to ignore her perception of what was ‘straight’, and to swim using a technique that to her felt like she was flailing around or ‘trying to swim in a circle’. Her scoliosis precluded her from any land-based training like running or weightlifting, making 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, the curves in her spine reached the mid 60 degree range and her discomfort 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 she was also a member of the Griffith Sports College and was the Griffith ambassador for the MS (Multiple Sclerosis) Swimathon.

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