So near, yet so far for Steph

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STEPH Proud admitted mixed emotions as her Olympics dreams were ended last night.

Proud, from Chester-le-Street, agonisingly missed qualifying for tonight’s 200m backstroke final at London 2012 by just over a quarter of a second.

Her semi-final time of 2:09.04 minutes ranked her ninth overall with only the top eight progressing.

But it was a season’s best and the second fastest time of the Florida-based swimmer’s career, with her old best set in the now outlawed super swim suits.

“It’s a case of so close, but so far, which is pretty frustrating,” she said. “It would have been amazing to have got in the final and I thought it could be done but it wasn’t to be.

“I can’t say I didn’t try though. The swim went really well and tactically I thought I got it right. I’m always slow going out but I’m fastest on the last length, which I think I did.

“It would have meant everything to me to make the Olympic final, but it’s the fastest I’ve been in two years, so I’m pretty happy.

“You first hope when you come to an Olympics is you do your best and I’ve done that, it just wasn’t enough.”

Proud can take satisfaction that her time and finishing position was a big improvement on last year’s World Championships in Shanghai, where she ranked 13th.

And she insisted she loved every minute of the home crowd experience.

“The crowd are just so amazing, I don’t think I can ever explain how great it is to be a home athlete in that situation,” she added.

“I thought at the beginning I might get a bit overwhelmed with everybody, but completely the opposite, I loved walking out.

“I’ve just got to know that I gave it everything, there’s nothing more that I could have done.”

Proud, 23, narrowly failed to make the British team for the Athens Games in 2004 and also missed out four years ago in Beijing.

So her final event at these Games marked the end of a long journey.

“You get to call yourself an Olympian for life and I’ve achieved a lifetime’s ambition,” she said. “There’s been lots of tears along the way but it does feel amazing to be here and part of it.

“I’m just going to enjoy the rest of the swimming now and then try to get around as many sports as possible to cheer on other British athletes.

“There is a great atmosphere in the team and we’re starting to do really well so it should be very exciting.”

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