Simmonds and Spofforth find form following difficult times

Backstroke pair Gemma Spofforth and Lizzie Simmonds both head into the World Championships in Shanghai having come through different challenges which forced them to dig deep within themselves this year.

Spofforth, the defending 100m backstroke champion, endured a family tragedy while Simmonds had to do some soul-searching after the shock of failing to qualify at the first stage of trials before booking her place on the team.

Florida-based Spofforth lost her mother to bowel cancer in December 2007, her death driving the 23-year-old to victory in Rome two years ago.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Earlier this year, while she was in Britain awaiting her green card, tragedy struck again when her father Mark’s new partner, June White, was diagnosed with lung cancer. She died at the same hospice where Spofforth’s mother passed away while the swimmer was competing at the trials in Manchester in March.

“I put a lot of extra pressure on myself to worry about things that probably didn’t need to be worried about,” said Spofforth.

“It took me a while after that to get back into swimming and realise I was doing something that I love and not just something that took my mind off what else is going on at home.”

Spofforth will swim just the 100m backstroke in Shanghai and feels little expectation given the form of others.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“That takes a lot of pressure off me and just makes me want to go into the meet just enjoying it rather than thinking I’ve got to go and make a final,” she added.”

Beverley-born Simmonds suffered a dip in form in Manchester which came as a shock after last year’s success at the European Championships where she claimed gold in the 200m and silver in the 100m behind Spofforth.

The 20-year-old failed to make the team and had to wait until last month’s second trials in Sheffield where a superb performance catapulted her to third in the world over four lengths.

“Things just didn’t go right, a lot of people go through it,” she said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“For some it lasts just one appalling race. For some people a week, some a year.

“To get through it and be back up to my best now, or pretty much, is something that has definitely made me stronger.”

As well as the British swimmers in action this weekend, Tom Daley and Pete Waterfield will be among the divers also in action in Shanghai.