DOUBLE Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington doesn’t know how Gemma Spofforth has managed to focus on swimming over the past seven years – but insists she oozes inspiration because she has managed it.
Portsmouth Northsea swimmer Spofforth’s ups and downs since being diagnosed with pancreatitis in 2005 have been well publicised.
They range from Olympic heartache and family bereavement to a world title and a world record.
The 24-year-old reached a career-high at the 2009 World Championships, winning 100m backstroke gold in a global best time.
However, one of her lowest ebbs came at the corresponding event last year.
She threatened to quit after surrendering her world title and failing to reach a single final in Shanghai.
While at March’s British Gas Championships, talk of retirement was once again voiced.
That came after Spofforth booked an Olympic swim in the 100m backstroke, though – quitting only being a consideration if she hadn’t.
And with her story in mind, Adlington doesn’t struggle for motivation.
She said: ‘Everything that Gemma has gone through in her career and with her family, her story is amazing,
‘I just look at her and think “how are you still here?”
‘I find Gemma so inspiring, just even listening to her. Everyone has their story of stuff that they have had to overcome, but hers’ is inspirational.
‘She comes back fighting and, instead of being knocked down more by it, she gets up and fights it.
‘Other people do that on the team as well and I think that is why we do so well.
‘British swimmers are very resilient and that is one of the good traits we all have.
‘Others like Fran Halsall, who came back from a bad injury, have shown that, too.
‘Lots of us are doing really well and Gemma is going to be right up there challenging for a medal in London, definitely.’
Spofforth will individually swim only in the 100m backstroke at the Olympics this summer.
While her rival and friend Lizzie Simmonds will take to the water only in the longer 200m.
Ever since the Beijing Games in 2008 they have been rivals in both disciplines and, while that won’t be the case in London, Adlington admits the foundations of it will benefit both parties.
‘Gemma and Lizzie have become so close because they have raced since they were really young, like myself and Jo Jackson,’ she added.
‘And I think that four years of domestic rivalry since Beijing is definitely, definitely going to help.
‘Because their rivalry is that close, that is going to be a massive help in London and it is the same across a lot of the events in the team.
‘If you were in an event where you were winning easily domestically then when you got to worlds you’d be thinking “oh my god this is tough”. It’s nice that we have so much depth.’
n Rebecca Adlington is a British Gas ambassador.
British Gas are getting the nation to show its support for the British Swimming Teams and is giving away free swims.
Simply visit www.britishgas.co.uk/freeswimming