Our neighbor's daughter wants to grow up to be Gemma Spofforth. Why? Because she learned to do the backstroke in the same pool that the current world record holder swims in. To be a kid in Gainesville is a wondrous thing, because so many different giants and heroes walk around and kids do get to see that great things are possible. But they also get to see first hand how much hard work it takes to make dreams come true.
Gemma Spofforth is a world record holder in swimming, a NCAA champion and two-time women's SEC Swimmer of the Year. The senior's accomplishments in the sport could literally fill a pool.
Yet the year before she left her home in England for Gainesville, Spofforth was seriously considering giving up the sport. She had been hospitalized with pancreatitis and was in and out of the water, not sure if swimming was truly in her future. Her mother, Lesley, was suffering from cancer. Eleven colleges offered Spofforth swim scholarships, and she narrowed her choices to Florida and Hawaii, while also considering staying home in West Sussex, England.
In the end, she decided to become a Gator.
“Coach (Gregg Troy) said I was the biggest risk he has ever taken in a swimmer because I was so unfit at the time,” Spofforth recalls. “He said he would have to take me and make me good.”
Spofforth's amazing Gator career comes to a close this weekend at the NCAA Championships in West Lafayette, Ind. The 22-year-old senior will attempt to become the first women swimmer to win four straight NCAA titles in the 200-yard back.
“You win the backstroke four years in a row at the SEC is pretty amazing,” Troy said. “Three years in a row winning at the NCAA meet is incredible. I would hate to jinx her, but she has a really good chance at winning her fourth.”