Spofforth happy to be loving swimming again

Gemma Spofforth finished fifth in the 100m backstroke final
Gemma Spofforth finished fifth in the 100m backstroke final
Kate Steels-Fryatt in action  Picture: Terry Scott

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Gemma Spofforth shrugged off the disappointment of not medalling in the women’s 100m backstroke final and smiled: My love for swimming is back.

The Portsmouth Northsea talent was powered on by a wall of noise from the GB fans as she claimed fifth place in the final at London 2012 last night.

Spofforth turned in sixth and then appeared to be closing in on the top three as ear drums around the Aquatic Centre took a fierce pounding.

Ultimately, though, the 24-year-old had to settle for fifth place in 59.20secs, with gold going to Missy Franklin of the USA in 58.33.

Australia’s Emily Seebohm came in behind Franklin for silver and Aya Terakawa, of Japan, took third.

But it was a stylish display from Spofforth, who overcame illness and family tragedy to get the start line.

Speaking to The News, Spofforth said: ‘Overall I am satisfied. Not happy but I love swimming again. I’m really enjoying it.

‘I think I am just finding that passion for life again.’

The former Portsmouth High School pupil nearly quit the sport in 2005 when she fell ill with pancreatitis.

Then, two years later, Spofforth had to deal with the death of her mother, Lesley, to bowel cancer.

More tragedy followed last year when her father’s partner was lost to the same illness.

In the pool, Spofforth agonisingly missed out on a medal in Beijing in 2008 by the smallest of margins.

But this time, the 100m backstroke world record holder strode away in bullish mood.

She added: ‘I came here to win a medal and I didn’t do that but I didn’t have that severe disappointment I had in 2008 when I came fourth by .04 of a second.

‘It has been an emotional six years for me.

‘It really has been a journey and when you look back, you will always remember the people who were with you, the fun you had, and the support and the love.

‘That’s one huge positive I will take away from the whole Olympic experience.’

Spofforth enjoyed a night to savour forever as the British crowd chanted her name.

The Northsea swimmer was clearly buzzing about the reception.

She said: ‘The crowd were fantastic.

‘Having thousands of people screaming your name before an event just made me so happy and ready to go.’

Meanwhile, Portsmouth-born Caitlin McClatchey qualified sixth fastest for tonight’s final of the women’s 200m freestyle.

The Scot finished in 1min 57.33 and was second in her heat.