GEMMA Spofforth confessed she would have immediately retired had she not booked her Olympic selection in dramatic fashion on Monday evening.
But she left it very, very late to earn her Team GB place. The former world champion and current world record holder, who was born in Shoreham and started swimming at Littlehampton Swimming Club, was a distant fifth at the halfway point of the women’s 100m backstroke final at the British Swimming Championships.
Needing a top two place to book her Olympic ticket, she produced a storming comeback and overhauled her rivals in devastating fashion. Her winning time of 1:00.19 was more than two seconds slower than her personal best and was just two hundredths quicker than Georgia Davies.
Spofforth, who finished fourth in Beijing in 2008, said: “If I hadn’t have qualified that would have been it for me, that would have been the last race of my career.
“I doubted a lot of times whether I could do it but I’m now just really excited about being back here for the Olympics. It didn’t really feel real until now.
“I wanted to give it everything because I knew there would never be another chance. It always comes down to the last 10 metres and I just dug as deep as I could.”
Injury and personal problems have plagued the 24-year old and 2011 was a difficult year, following the loss of her father’s partner to illness, failure at the World Championships and a freak cycling accident that saw her break her nose and big toe.
She said: “It has been a year shrouded in doubt for me and there were a lot of times I didn’t think I could do it. Over Christmas, I was really wondering if I was going to get strong enough to make it.
“I’ve had five years of ups and downs and I have had to have a lot of strength to get through that adversity. Coming fourth in Beijing is still there in my mind and I was so close, but I came back in 2009 and won the world title and I want to do that again.”
Spofforth will now refocus her sights on the 200m backstroke, in which she is the British record holder.
Kellogg’s has been supporting British Swimming for more than 15 years on a “grassroots to gold medals” programme of swimming. Visit www.kelloggs.co.uk/freeswim