Gemma Spofforth

Gemma Spofforth

Gemma Spofforth has gone from strength to strength in establishing herself as one of the premier female backstroke swimmers in the world. It was in 2005 where Gemma first rose to National prominence, winning two Gold Medals at the British Championships in the 50m and 100m backstroke. British Championship success also came in 2008 with Gold in the 100m Backstroke.  

At 18 years of age, Gemma left her home town of Portsmouth and moved to America to attend the University of Florida.  Whilst studying for a degree in Psychology, she led the University’s team to overwhelming success, even receiving an invite to meet Barack Obama at the White House after leading the Florida Gators to win their first US National Collegiate Championship for 28 years. As captain of the women’s swimming squad, Gemma remains the only woman to have been a three-time National College Champion.

Gemma made her Olympic debut at the Beijing Games in 2008. Despite finishing 4th and narrowly missing out on a medal in the 200m Backstroke by four tenths of a second, she still set a new British Record, and set another as part of the British squad in the 4x200m Medley Relay.

Only a year later, Gemma proved her world beating capabilities at the 2009 World Championships in Rome. She won the Gold medal in her favoured event, the 100m Backstroke, setting a new World Record breaking time of 58.12 seconds in doing so.

More British Championship success came in 2011 where she won a third Gold Medal in the 100m Backstroke. It is in this event that Gemma is highly fancied for success in home waters at London 2012, along with a strong chance of a medal in the medley relay where the British Squad is as strong as ever.

- The Olympic Games in London are now just a handful of days away so how excited are you at the prospect of a home Games?

So excited! Whist stopping competitive swimming has been on my mind for a while now; I said to myself that if I didn’t qualify for the Olympics I would definitely retire from competitive swimming.

However after I won the British trials and qualified it just gave me the extra bit of motivation I needed, just the thought of competing at my home Olympics gave me a sense of renewed motivation. I know it sounds strange but there was a time when I saw the 5 Olympic rings at St. Pancras (station) and it hit me. I was like: "Oh, I really do want this journey"

- And what sort of shape would you say that you are in at the moment and how has your winter training gone?

Really good shape, the times I’m swimming in training are good and the training seems to be paying off. My winter training was brutal though and I was in the pool between 12 and 24 hours a week and maybe 5-6 hours doing dryland training on top of that too.

Monday: Morning: 2 to 4 hours swimming in the morning Afternoon: 1 hour of weight and strength/ endurance conditioning

Tuesday: Morning: 2 to 4 hours swimming in the morning Afternoon: 1 hour of ‘dryland’ training which can vary from running to boxing training 

Wednesday: Morning: 2 to 4 hours swimming in the morning Afternoon: 1 hour of flexibility work and light strength conditioning

Thursday: Morning: 2 to 4 hours swimming in the morning Afternoon: 1 hour of flexibility work and light strength conditioning

Friday: Morning: 2 to 4 hours swimming in the morning Afternoon: Another 1-2 hour pool session

Saturday: Morning: 2 to 4 hours swimming in the morning Afternoon: 1 hour of weight and strength/ endurance conditioning

Sunday: I’m usually given a rest day today, sometimes I might get in the pool or sometimes I might do an extra dryland session.

But it’s so important to get enough time to recover so I usually take my dog to the dog park, lay out and tan, go to the beach or the springs, write or just lay on the couch with friends watching a movie.

- You qualified for the GB team back in March so how pleased were you with your qualifying performance and what have you been working on since the British Gas Swimming Championships?

I was so happy I qualified just because I wanted to give it everything I had because it was going to be one of my last races. If I hadn't done it, it would have been my last 100m ever so I think it was a mix of happiness and relief.

Also since qualifying I’ve obviously come back to Florida to study and train and really just got back into the routine (mentioned before) that has seen me qualify. The only thing I’ve really looked to changed is my nutrition.

- A big part of preparation for any tournament is nutrition so what kind of diet/nutrition plan are you on at the moment?

Absolutely and I think up until now I’ve slightly neglected that, I used to eat chocolate and ice cream and have a poor diet. But this next couple of months I’ve been working closely with my nutrition partners and we’ve really strived to create a healthy diet. I remember 5 weeks before I set the World Record in Rome I stopped eating chocolate, ice cream and candy and I felt great as a result.

That’s what I’m doing now. So to give you an idea of my nutrition, basically overhauled my fridge and cupboards so before I gave up chocolate my fridge consisted of: Ice cream, Dove milk chocolate, Chocolate flavoured oatmeal, bananas, peanut butter, cheese, pasta, chicken, beef, tomato sauce, frozen veg, bread, vanilla yoghurt. Whereas now it’s made up of: Oatmeal, honey, bananas, strawberries, raspberries, granola, apples, peaches, pasta, veg, hummus, vanilla yogurt, cheese, bread, chicken, beef, tomato sauce.

I’m also using a lot of recovery shakes and bars after my workout to help my body recover as well as curb my sweet tooth.

- And how does that nutrition plan change once you are competing in a big event? What sort of food and hydration routine will you stick too once you are competing to help prepare you for each race?

I think there’s an emphasis on ‘recovery’ during winter training just because of the sheer volume of training, so making sure you have enough carbohydrates and calories to fuel your training and protein afterwards to recover.

But leading up to a competition place much more of an emphasis on ‘performance’ paying attention to electrolyte balance, hydration and amino acids that may further help my performance, rather than recovery.

The sports scientists were explaining about electrolytes and how they are needed for the electrical impulses in your body which are needed for sports performance and if they are a little bit out it can have really badly affect you and your performance

- Perhaps the food and hydration can be overlooked by spectators of the sport so how important is it to the diet aspect of training and racing right?

So important, just because it can have a huge effect on your performance and it’s also one of those things that’s actually in your control so it would only make sense to do everything you can to make your physically you are feeling good on the day.

- At the trials earlier this year you were able to test of the Olympic pool and facilities so how did you find them?

I know the media said I was quite outspoken about the pool but it was just the lines on the roof and the lights were oddly placed and so when you tried swimming in a line with them you ended up all over the lane.

But having said that we’ve swam in it now so we can get used to it and have an edge over those who get here for the Games when we’ve already swam in it.

- You are a world champion and a record holder in the backstroke so what are you expecting to achieve at the Games in the summer?

I really want and expect Gold. I just feel that would be the perfect way to end a great career, a gold medal at my home games.

- You were at the Beijing Olympics four years ago so what can you take from that experience that can help you prepare for the London Games?

I think that 4th place is still in the back of my mind and still haunts me a little bit, but I came back the following year and won the world title so I know I can do it.

Also I think as one of the more experienced swimmers in the team I will be able to draw upon that come London 2012, control my nerves and swim a great race.

- We have seen British swimming on the rise in the last few years so what can team GB achieve in the pool in London?

I think Bejjing was a turning point for British swimming, finishing 3rd in the medal table behind the US and Australia and we’ve since had some great championships with more recently swimmers swimming brilliant times at the trials.

There’s talk of 5-10 medals in the team come London but we’ll have to wait and see, I certainly think we’ve got a great chance of picking up medals and I know other countries know that too.

- The London Games will inspire kids all over the country to get into sport so what advice would you give to anyone who wants to take up swimming?

Swimming has given me so much and is such a great sport but my only advice to someone who wants to do it competitively is be prepared for long hours of training and make sure you maintain a life outside of swimming, it can become extremely time consuming but you can still have a life alongside.

- Finally what's coming up for you between now and the Games?

Well I’ve still got my studies to work on and I’ve exams and my work at the crisis centre still which keeps me so busy. Other than that these next few months before the games I’ve a strict routine, both diet and training to stick to, and so that is my only focus.

I’m still considering what the best races will be for me to compete in leading up to the games but I just want to make sure I’m in the best possible shape going into London.

Gemma Spofforth is fuelled by, the UK’s number one online sports nutrition brand and supplier to many of Britain’s Olympians such as World 400m Champion Dai Greene, Taekwondo Youth Olympic Gold Medallist Jade Jones and 11-time Paralympic gold medallist David Roberts   

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