Jessica Ashwood is an Australian National Record Holder and a distance freestyle specialist. Born Apr. 28, 1993 Ashwood is a 2012 London Olympian, and has more recently broken out onto the international scene. When her swimming career ends Ashwood wants to become a high school teacher.
Ashwood is a bit of a miracle, considering that her body doesn’t necessarily agree with her being an athlete. Standing 5’8” Ashwood has severe scoliosis to the point that she sometimes swims crooked, and cannot run or do any land activities such as weightlifting or dry land. She has turned down both corrective back surgery and a body brace because both options would take her out of the sport. Ashwood and her coach attribute her success to developing a stroke technique that both balances her imbalanced strength and her body position in the water.
Ashwood had competed in mostly national competitions up until 2010, when 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 800. The same year she swam at Oceania in Samoa, where she won a bronze medal in the 800m freestyle.
Passion for distance swimming
She’s one of those rare swimmers that really enjoys doing long distance training, and putting in the yardage. When most swimmers want to join in on the sprint group, Ashwood takes pride in being a distance swimmer, especially with Australia’s successful history with female distance swimmers.
Brought up as a senior competitor
In 2011 Ashwood was selected to her first senior team, when she competed in the 1500m freestyle at the World Championships, which were held in Shanghai. Although she didn’t medal, Ashwood finished 15th overall, and marked the beginning to her senior career.
In 2012 she qualified for her first Olympic Games, swimming the 800m freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics, where she finished 20th. Although she did qualify for the 2012 Olympics in the 800m freestyle her real breakout was at the NSW’s, when she broke the Australian National Record in the 800m freestyle.
Ashwood competed at her second World Championships in 2013 – this time she finished 10th in the 800m freestyle. In February 2014 at the New South Wales State Championships, Ashwood became the first Australian woman under 8:20 in the 800 meter freestyle. Later that year she competed at both the Commonwealth Games and the Pan Pacific Championships. Her best finish came in the 800m freestyle, when she finished sixth overall at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
2015- First World Championship Hardware
After winning the the 800m freestyle at the Japan Open, Ashwood was in Russia for her third World Championships. With more experience, she climbed the rankings. In the 400 meter freestyle the Aussie won her first World Championship medal. In a close fought final 50 meters, she claimed the bronze. She also appeared in the final of the 800 and 1,500 meter freestyle touching 4th and 5th.
Road to Rio
At the Australian Olympic Trials, Ashwood took the title in the 400 and 800 meter freestyle. She was just outside her national records which she set at the 2015 World Championships. She will compete in both events in Rio.
2016 Rio Olympics
Ashwood swam to a 7th place finish in the 400M Free with a time of 4:05.68, just over nine seconds than Gold Medalist and World Record Holder, Katie Ledecky. In the 800M Free, Ashwood finished 5th with a time of 8:20.32, bettering her preliminary mark of 8:22.57.
In the 4X200Free Relay, Ashwood helped team Australia to a silver medal finishing behind Gold Medal winners, the US.