OLYMPICS: Swimmer Gemma has a real uphill task ahead now

Gemma Spofforth reflects after a brave effort in the 100m backstroke which saw her narrowly miss out on a podium spot
Gemma Spofforth reflects after a brave effort in the 100m backstroke which saw her narrowly miss out on a podium spot

SUSSEX swimming ace Gemma Spofforth has climbed many an emotional mountain during her swimming career – now she wants to scale one for real.

The 24-year-old had a shot at redemption at London 2012 on Monday night in the 100m backstroke final, having finished an agonising fourth in the same event at Beijing 2008.

However Spofforth, a former 100m world champion, couldn’t quite get the medal she so craved, and deserves, finishing fifth as Missy Franklin took gold.

It was a cruel blow for Shoreham-born Spofforth, whose emotions have been pushed to breaking point over the past seven years, ever since she was struck down with pancreatitis in 2005.

She has had to cope with the death of her mother Lesley in 2007 and then her father Mark’s partner in 2011 as well as sensational form combined with a lack of it that almost forced her to retire.

And after placing fifth in her only individual event at the London 2012 Olympics, Spofforth, whose family live in Slindon, revealed her desire to climb a mountain for real – and a big one in Everest at that.

“I have started climbing and I am looking towards climbing Everest. On the side I will still keep swimming and still keep fit,” said Spofforth, whose early days in the pool were spent in Littlehampton and Bognor.

“I think I can combine both, I think it crosses over and if you are fit out of the water you are going to be fit in the water and I don’t think I am going to lose that.

“It is genuine, I started climbing this year, to get my swimming in tow and started loving it and there are few people out there that want to do it too.

“It costs $60,000 so there is a lot that I need to save. It will probably take about five years, to get ready for it and I have got to do a few climbs beforehand and a course to get ready.”

Spofforth clocked a time of 59.20sec to finish fifth in the 100m final, Franklin taking gold in 58.33 with Australia’s Emily Seebohm second and Japan’s Aya Terakawa third.

She still has one more swim to come in London, the 4x100m medley relay which begins with the heats today, but refused to state whether she had swum her last individual 100m race.

“I came in really wanting a medal, in 2008 I came fourth so fifth is a bit disappointing but I said all along it is about the journey not the destination,” she added.

“I have said that a lot of times already and for me it is really rekindling that love and finding something I am really passionate about and really happy about and having fun with life again.

“Two years ago, even one year ago, I was thinking about quitting swimming – and to be in an Olympic final and fifth is really special.

“That could be my last 100m but the door is definitely wide open and I am loving swimming and we will just see what happens.”

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TOM REYNOLDS