London’s calling for golden girl Gemma

WORLD champion swimmer Gemma Spofforth admits next year’s Olympic Games may be her last.

The 23-year-old, who was born in Shoreham, swam at Littlehampton, Bognor and Portsmouth Northsea before going to the University of Florida to continue her swimming, while studying a degree in Family, Youth and Community Sciences.

Everything she does this year is geared up to the Olympic Games in London but that is not even half the pressure of what she deals with when she works in a crisis centre in America as a suicide prevention worker.

She is looking at doing counselling in some shape when her swimming career ends, but her immediate goal is a medal in London.

She is looking to compete in the 100m and 200 backstroke and maybe the relay as well and said: “Everything now is building up to 2012.

“The World Championships in Shanghai in July are basically a stepping stone.

“The Olympics is always in the back of my mind but I try not to think about it too much as I don’t want to put myself under too much pressure.”

Spofforth, who calls her parents and all her coaches her biggest influences, finished fourth in the 100m backstroke in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and said: “It’s going to be very different this time round.

“There will be the home crowd and a completely different atmosphere, having everyone cheering us on.”

She swam a world record time of 58.12sec in the World Championships in 2009, won three silvers in the 2010 Commonwealth Games and gold in the British Championships this year but is philosophical about winning a medal at the Olympics: “My target is to try get one but I’m not going to put all my eggs in one basket.

“If I don’t get one, it’s not the end of the world.

“I’ll be counselling when I stop swimming. I’ve been doing it for just over a year now, after I passed a quite intense six-week course and I’m more proud of that than my world record.

“It was a big challenge to get and I was so proud of myself.

“It’s emotionally tiring and can get quite stressful but is so rewarding.

“When I stop swimming, I’ll do some kind of counselling – suicide or young people, I don’t know yet.”

Spofforth believes the London Games could be her last and said: “It’s probably going to be my last one, depending on how I do.

“I’ve got two different lives going on and my swimming career is coming to an end.

“There’s a lot of younger people coming through and I’ll be at my peak age next year.”

Spofforth first got into swimming as a three-year-old, in five-year-old classes because she was tall for her age, when her parents took her to the pool.

She started competing aged seven and more competitively in her mid-teens. She said: “I started it and kept doing it because I enjoyed it.

“It was the social aspect –swimming is unsocial hours, so you make a lot of friends.

“At 15 or 16, I realised I was pretty good at it and decided to try to make the most of it.

“I then had the choice of going to America and carrying on, or retiring and going to Bournemouth University. I definitely made the right choice.”

A normal week of training in Florida is 24 hours training with 10 sessions in the pool, three sessions running or boxing and three weight sessions and she said: “I like to keep busy. I get bored if I don’t and began to think about things too much.

“Being busy is best for me.”