It’s been a difficult year for Gemma Spofforth.
The death of her father’s partner, food poisoning, a broken nose, temporary exile and almost retirement.
But, having opted against calling time on her career following a testing year to say the least, the former Portsmouth High School pupil has vowed to ensure all’s well that ends well.
The 23-year-old world-record holder began the year looking close to the swimmer who won the world 100m backstroke title in Rome in 2009, following the disappointment of failing to win at the Commonwealth equivalent in 2010.
Spofforth comfortably qualified for the 100m at July’s World Championships at the British trials in March – but what happened before, during and after her trip to Shanghai left her soul searching.
Having lost her mother Lesley to bowel cancer in 2007, Spofforth saw her father’s new partner June succumb to lung cancer while she was at the British Championships in Manchester.
She was then forced to be away from her Florida base as she awaited her green card, and then in China for the worlds, sickness and diarrhea saw her crash out of the heats of the 100m.
Spofforth revealed after she failed to make the 50m final that she nearly retired following her 100m failure.
And to top it all off, upon her return to Florida she broke her nose, toe and needed 15 stitches following a bicycle accident.
Despite all that’s goes on, though, the ex-Portsmouth Northsea ace remains intent on making next year’s Olympics, her second after finishing fourth in the 100m in Beijing in 2008, and has vowed to make the most of everything between now and then.
‘I came back to Florida after the worlds, I was very disappointed and I still had a huge decision to make to swim or call it a day,’ said Spofforth – who is encouraging swimming for 30 minutes once a week which burns up to 350 calories and tones your body as part of British Swimming’s Big Splash.
‘But I am now the fittest I have been for a while and I am really enjoying it and whatever happens, happens.
‘I have found love for it again and this year is about enjoying it, getting in and racing and doing what I love.
‘I have had a few bad run-ins but everyone has their problems and things that aren’t right about their lives.’
Spofforth is currently building towards March’s Olympic trials in London and will compete in Minnesota, Georgia twice and Texas before heading back to the UK.
And Spofforth, who missed out on 100m bronze at the Beijing Games by four hundredths of a second, believes doing so will leave her best prepared to secure a swim at her second Olympics.
‘Racing is the best way to learn and you can improve on so much when you race and there are so many from now until the trials for me,’ added Spofforth.
‘I will be going to Minnesota for a Grand Prix in a couple of weeks. I’ll have the US Nationals in December and the European versus America Duel in the Pool and then in January there is the Austin Grand Prix.
‘So there is a lot and I will go to those meets in the middle of heavy training to see how it goes.’
n British Swimming’s Big Splash campaign is supported by principal partner British Gas, and supporting partners Kellogg’s and Speedo. For more information on great swimming activities and offers, visit bigsplash.co.uk