Spofforth relaxed over 200m ‘bonus’

Gemma Spofforth during the heats of the women's 200m backstroke during the British Swimming Championships at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park, London
Gemma Spofforth during the heats of the women's 200m backstroke during the British Swimming Championships at the Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park, London
Kate Steels-Fryatt in action  Picture: Terry Scott

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Gemma Spofforth admits the pressure is off ahead of tonight’s 200m backstroke final at the British Swimming Championships.

The Portsmouth Northsea star booked her place after finishing as the fifth-fastest qualifier in yesterday’s semi-finals with a time of 2min 11.89sec.

Spofforth, who finished third in her race, will be joined in the final by Copnor’s Katy Sexton.

The 2003 world 200m backstroke champion – who, at the age of 29, was the oldest competitor in the event – was the eight-fastest qualifier in a season’s best 2:13.50.

Spofforth has already cemented her spot at this summer’s Olympics after claiming gold in the 100m backstroke on Monday.

And having considered giving the 200m a miss, the former Portsmouth High School pupil admits a second swim on her Olympic schedule would be no more than a bonus.

The 100m world record holder said: ‘The 100 is my baby and my event.

‘I almost said “maybe I don’t need to do the 200, maybe it’s just for the 100 this year”, so it won’t be the end of the world if I don’t make it.

‘I really want to go and give it my best on the 100. I’d love to go in the 200 as well but there’s a really good field out there.

On her performance last night, which saw Spofforth comfortably behind leading two Karley Manns and Lizzie Simmonds before a late surge closed the gap, she said: ‘It felt a little messy from the start.

‘Nothing really felt very right at all. The aim was to go out really smooth on the first 100 and then kick it on the third 50, and the first 100 did feel good.

‘But I didn’t manage to kick in as much as I needed to. I didn’t have the extra on the end.’

Despite securing her place at this summer’s London Games, Spofforth feels the event won’t be the same unless her close friend Simmonds joins her at the Olympics.

The pair have become inseparable since the Rome World Championships in 2009 when they reached finals over both 100m and 200m, with Spofforth claiming gold over the shorter distance.

However, their hegemony in the 100m was broken by Georgia Davies earlier this week, who edged out Simmonds, leaving the 21-year-old with just one chance tonight to secure a place in London.

And while Spofforth is eager to double up in London, it is just as important to her that Simmonds shares in what is likely to be her final major championship.

Spofforth said: ‘Lizzie will go out with a really quick race and it would be nice to push her.

‘She’s so much better than she did in the 100 and I know her really well. We are both very mental swimmers and it means a lot.

‘She wasn’t quite herself before the 100 and I’m really hoping she can turn that around in the 200.

‘She’s great to have on the team and in the call room, a really great spirit and one of my best friends.’

n Kellogg’s has been supporting British Swimming for more than 15 years on a ‘grassroots to gold medals’ programme of swimming. Visit kelloggs.co.uk/swimming