Swimming: Podium place in Spofforth’s sights as Olympics loom

Gemma Spofforth is relaxed and fit as the Olympics loom large
Gemma Spofforth is relaxed and fit as the Olympics loom large

Gemma Spofforth is hopeful she can go one better than Beijing and land her first Olympic medal later this month - but is stopping short of predicting which colour it will be.

The Shoreham-born swimming ace is in good shape as the London Games draw ever closer and she counts down to her bid for glory in the 100m backstroke.

Spofforth (pictured), who grew up in West Sussex and whose family still live in Slindon, flew to Britain from her Florida base on Sunday night to join up with her fellow Team GB swimmers.

The 24-year-old finished one place – and just four hundredths of a second – off bronze in the 100m backstroke at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and also reached the final, but was unplaced, in the 200m. She was also part of the fourth-placed medley relay team.

But her dad Mark Spofforth said 2012 had always been seen as having the potential to be Gemma’s peak time to medal.

“Even before it was known this year’s Olympics were going to be in London, 2012 has been her target. She’s 24 now and if you look at the swimmers who beat her in 2008, when she was 20, they were 24 or 25. It seems to be the peak age in swimming.

“She’s looking very fit and she’s now very focused. With her counselling work in the States being a full-time occupfation for her, that’s not always been the case over the past year. But as the Games have drawn nearer, she’s upped her training and focus nicely.

“Their training in these latter stages of the build-up is now quite relaxed compared to what’s gone before. They deliberately do the more intensive stuff earlier – they train very hard four, five and six months out. The aim is for them to be at their peak for the finals.

“Gemma is happy and excited about it all, and so are all her family and friends. She knows she can get on the podium in the 100m but at the moment is just concentrating on getting to the final and then taking it from there.”

There’ll be a strong contingent from Slindon and other West Sussex communities when Spofforth swims in her heat at the Aquatic Centre in Stratford on the morning of Sunday, July 29 and, all being well, in the following day’s final. Depending on her times in the 100m, Spofforth could also swim in the medley relay on August 4 and 5.

Spofforth has had plenty of career highs – Commonwealth and European silver medals and a European junior championship win plus a world record for her discipline in Rome in 2009. But London could top the lot for a swimmer who learned to swim in Littlehampton and trained with Bognor Swimming Club.

STEVE BONE