In 2007 her mother, Lesley, died of stomach cancer. In 2011 she lost both her father's girlfriend, June, and June's daughter Vicky, both to cancer. There have been times, Spofforth admits in her autobiography, due to be published after the Olympics, when she contemplated committing suicide. "Is the concrete hard enough?" Spofforth writes in Dealing With It: Five Years of Mourning, Medals and Men. "I could jump right now. I could escape. I would not have to deal with it, wouldn't have to think, wouldn't have to worry." That was when she was standing on a hotel balcony, during a training camp on the Gold Coast in Australia.
As recently as last Christmas, seven months out from a competition for which she has been preparing for seven years, she was thinking about quitting her sport. "Right from the beginning of my career London 2012, or even before we got the bid, the 2012 Olympics was always my goal."
After the world championships in Shanghai last year, when Spofforth was ill and finished 17th, those doubts grew. Bad thoughts began to fester. "It was very real after Shanghai. There was a lot of times then when I just thought: 'This is the end of my career. I can't do another year.' Over Christmas it was hard because the pressure was insane."
Spofforth cannot pinpoint the exact moment when she decided to carry on to the Games. "It may even have been when I was on the plane back to America after Christmas. I had had a week off and it was really hard being around family, who didn't know what to say to me." There was a moment, she says, when the prospect of swimming in the London Olympics began to feel very real. "It was just a day when I was like: 'OK, so it is the London Olympics.' I had it in my mind and I had said it but actually feeling it was a different thing."