Q&A with top GB swimmer Gemma Spofforth
realbuzz.com catches up with one of GB swimming’s stars Gemma Spofforth
Gemma Spofforth is best known for her incredible swim at the 2009 World Swimming Championships in Rome where she took the gold medal in the 100m backstroke in a new world record time. We managed to put a few questions to Gemma — who finished an agonising 4th at the 2008 Beijing Olympics — as she prepared to kick-off 2011 with success at the British Championships looking to push on to London 2012.
Q. Did your world record give you confidence going forward to 2012?
A. Yeah definitely it was a great boost and actually getting the world Record, I was completely stunned by it. I wasn't really expecting it at all. It didn't feel as fast as it was. So going into the next year I was expecting a lot more from myself and hoping to go a lot faster. Unfortunately ... I actually over think things quite a lot and actually getting the record might have hindered me because I got a little complacent. So knowing about that complacently now I am hoping to go into 2012 and use this year for a mental boost and not be as complacent.
Q. What inspires you and what was the driving force behind you getting into swimming?
A. When I was really young my parents and my mum took to me to the pool and kind of forced me into it. I remember a conversation with her at Little Hampton pool where I said I don't want to go and swim with other people and I don't want to make friends and she sort of forced me into it and told me it was going to be ok. Since then I haven't looked back. Doing it with the support of parents, as you may know my mum died in 2007 of bowel cancer and since then that's been my inspiration. Knowing that this is what she wanted for me and that this is what we wanted together.
Q. Tell us about a world record holding swimmers typical day's training?
A. A lot of the mental side of things goes into it for me because I study psychology and counseling in the states. So it's a big mental process. We do some dry land in season - not know because we are training to swim fast - but we do boxing and a lot of stadiums which is running steps, weights and everything to keep yourself on top and keep yourself fit and healthy.
Q. Beijing 2008 was great for GB swimming. Is the fierce competition within the team also a motivation?
A. Yeah definitely I'm really excited to go in against Lizzie Simmonds we've always had a good rivalry and I'm excited to go in and just race. There are a lot of up and coming swimmers, young ones. It is a competition within itself to get through and you can't really be complacent before you even go into this one.
Q. So for you the mental side of sport is very important but can be both a strength and weakness?
A. Yeah, I over think things a lot. My focus and my sheer strength in focusing my anger or emotions towards swimming fast is my strength but obviously on the other side I do tend to over think ad if I'm being complacent or if I'm not so good in the pool it'll play on negative thoughts and contribute to not swimming well. I sometimes try to just switch off but it doesn't work!
Q. What is the most important sacrifice you have had to make to be a top athlete?
A. Definitely moving to Florida. Everything else such as social life is minor compared to that. I always remember leaving and seeing my mum's face when she started crying. When my mum went through cancer it was a huge struggle. It was her choice for me to stay and continue swimming and my dream for both of us.
Q. By your enviable standards 2010 was not a great year why?
A. I've reflected quite a lot and I think a lot goes down to the complacency issue. Maybe I thought "I'm the World champ and so perhaps I don't have to work so hard". That's not the case you have to work 24/7. That's what I am working on this year. 2011 is time to wash away the cobwebs and look forward to 2012. The 100 is very important for me this year. It's the one I'd like to win.
Q. We hear as part of your degree you've been doing some work at a Samaritans phone centre?
I haven't been able to carry on with that since coming back to the UK. It was a thing I did regularly and I have become an associate out in the states so that I can go face to face with people as well as the phones. It's really rewarding and is something I will get back into when I get back to the states. It helps me keep my mind off swimming and it's a great distraction. It is a place to get away from swimming.