OLYMPICS UPDATE: Brave Spofforth so close to medal

editorial image

Gemma Spofforth was so close to her first Olympic medal - and can hold her head high after finishing fifth in the 100m backstroke final.

It was a brave, brave effort from Spofforth but she didn’t quite have enough to force her way on to the podium as Missy Franklin took gold.

Cheered on by family and friends from Sussex, and receiving a fantastic reception from the home crowd before and after the race, the 24-year-old said she was disappointed not to get a medal, but was happy with life and passionate about swimming again after reaching rock bottom.

Shoreham-born Spofforth, whose family are based in Slindon, endured the agony of finishing fourth on two occasions at her opening Games experience in Beijing four years ago – in the 100m backstroke and 4x100m backstroke medley.

Both before and after that setback she has had to endure terrible personal tragedies with both her mother and her father’s new partner dying of cancer.

There was talk of retirement earlier this year, however Spofforth, who swam in Littlehampton and Bognor as a youngster and was later a member of the successful Portsmouth Northsea club, showed something close to the form that brought her the world record – which still stands from 2009 - on the way to this final.

She qualified sixth fastest for the final. Earlier Spofforth safely negotiated the heats.

The 24-year-old Spofforth has endured a well-documented turbulent few years of peaks and troughs, both in and out of the pool.

The Florida-based swimmer claimed the world crown in Rome in 2009 in world record time.

The following year saw her swim her final competition for the University of Florida, highly emotional for Spofforth as the team had become, and remain, a bedrock for her during difficult times.

The European title followed but by her own admission she went into a slump, with a difficult Commonwealth Games and then last year’s World Championships in Shanghai where as defending champion she failed to make it out of the heats. It was not until the trials earlier this year that Spofforth rediscovered her love for her sport.

Get reaction to Spofforth’s brave effort in the Observer series and the Herald & Gazette this week.