THE BEST OF 2009: Gemma Spofforth
THEY SAY what doesn't break you makes you stronger - and for Gemma Spofforth in 2009 never has a truer word be spoken.
DISBELIEF: Gemma Spofforth reacts with surprise after breaking the 100m backstroke world record - and winning the world title in Rome earlier this year (Getty Images)
Many would have and in the past have. Fellow British swimmer - James Goddard to name just one - have taken time off to ‘find themselves' after finishing an agonising fourth on their Olympic debut.
But instead of spiralling into a world of frustration and depression, Spofforth - studying family, youth and community sciences at the University of Florida - used her Beijing Olympic hurt to her advantage.
After finishing four hundredths-of-a-second away from 100m backstroke bronze in Beijing, the 22-year-old went back to her American base, with the likes of three-time Olympic champion Ryan Lochte, and immediately set about righting her Chinese wrongs.
Spofforth deliberately kept herself to herself, missing the British Championships in March in order to compete at the NCAA Championships in the US and returning to the UK as late as June.
However, her desire not to let her Olympic heartache return to haunt her was apparent from the first gun at the Foro Italico.
Spofforth spoke of setting the record straight at Britain's training camp in Sardinia and she underlined her desire as early as the heats, qualifying fastest in a new championship record of 58.78 seconds.
But her heart sank in the semi-finals when after going four hundredths quicker to set a new world record, nearest rival Russian Anastasia Zueva came along moments later and literally blew it out of the water.
The 19-year-old took nearly three-tenths-of-a-second off Spofforth's time, clocking 58.48 as a sense of déjà vu slowly began creeping back into the mind of the Brit.
However, Spofforth - who was criticised for staying in the States as late as June - has developed the ability to stare adversity in the face over the past year and give it a slap.
Many will talk about the Michael Phelps versus Milorad Cavic 100m butterfly race as the best seen at the Foro Italico and rightly so - but for me it was hands down that 100m backstroke final.
Like Phelps, Spofforth was behind Zueva at the 50m split but in a stunning second half to the race, she not only took gold from the Russian teenager but her world record as well.
Spofforth touched home in 58.12 - six hundredths ahead of Zueva - to become the first British female since fellow Portsmouth Northsea flyer Katy Sexton to win world gold.
The Shoreham-born swimmer was finally walking tall in the land of gladiators and dedicated her feat to her late mother, Lesley - who died of cancer in 2007.
However, every silver lining has a cloud and Spofforth went on to finish an all too familiar fourth twice again in Rome - first in the 200m backstroke and then the 4x100m medley relay.
Spofforth's last words to me before leaving the Foro Italico complex after the medley relay were that finishing fourth again has given her renewed hunger ahead of London 2012.
But as admitted by herself with a name like Spofforth - that number could stay with her for life.
Read more 2009 memories from the Sportsbeat reporters who witnessed them: