Fans have bought their 2012 tickets – now Britain's first athlete books hers
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Wednesday 20 July 2011
With one week and one year to go until the London Olympics begin, Keri-Anne Payne, a 23-year-old from Heywood, near Manchester, yesterday became the first Briton to qualify for the event.
Payne, a silver medallist in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, won gold at the World Swimming Championships at Jinshan City Beach – a man-made lagoon near Shanghai – but more importantly, a top-10 finish in the 10km open water event confirmed her place for 2012.
To complete a memorable day, Payne's press conference was interrupted by a telephone call to inform her that her sister Janine was in labour. She now has a new niece, Erin, to celebrate with. "I really wish I could swear right now but I am not that kind of person," said Payne, thereby narrowly avoiding becoming not only the first member of Team GB but also the first to break one of Sir Clive Woodward's proposed team commandments.
"It feels amazing, I'm just so happy. To be on that Olympic team at a home Olympics is going to be absolutely amazing."
Woodward, the British Olympic Association's deputy chef de mission, wants Team GB athletes to agree to a code of conduct – including no swearing and responsible use of social media – ahead of a home Games from which much is expected.
A target of more medals from more sports that the 47 from 11 secured in Beijing has been set in return for £264m of funding from UK Sport.
Payne could provide more than one medal herself. She will also compete in the pool-based events in Shanghai, having been selected for the 1500m and the relay team.
Payne, who was born in Johannesburg and moved to Britain at the age of 13 when her English parents decided to return home, could become one of the faces of 2012. Her silver four years ago came in the inaugural open water 10km race – a gruelling event that takes two hours and regularly sees exhausted swimmers hauled from the water in distress.
With no lanes – races can become a free-for-all as competitors round the buoys that mark the course – and conditions that can be cold and windy, this is swimming's toughest test, and there have been calls for more boats to be stationed around courses to improve safety. In London, the open water swimming will be staged in the Serpentine in Hyde Park – where swans replace jelly-fish as the on-course irritant.
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