Keri-Anne Payne all set for Olympics

 

London 2012 moved a step closer today for the 44 swimmers that will represent Great Britain as they arrived at the Olympic village for a brief stay before heading to their holding camp in Edinburgh in midweek.

Among them was Keri-Anne Payne, who became the first athlete to book a spot on Team GB following victory in the 10 kilometre open water at the World Championships in Shanghai last year.

The 24-year-old won the silver medal at the Beijing Games and since then has claimed world titles in 2009 and 2011, sandwiching an eighth-place finish in 2010, the same year she won Commonwealth bronze in the 400 metres individual medley.

However, Payne will solely be competing in the open water in the capital and will have to wait until August 9, five days after the pool competition concludes, to negotiate the Serpentine in Hyde Park.

Experience, though, counts for a lot as Payne takes her place in a team of which more than half are Olympic debutants.

For Payne, absorbing the Olympics is highly personal to each athlete, whether they be first-timers or the nine on the team, including her fiance David Carry who she will marry in the autumn, who are competing at their third Games.

She told Press Association Sport: "Everybody is their own person and I would never, ever say to anybody how to go about their Olympic experience because it is different for everybody.

"Hopefully the young ones will learn a bit from the likes of David (Carry) who is coming up to his third Olympics and Jo Jackson is the same and then myself and Becky (Adlington) at our second.

"They'll realise that going down to the dinner hall every five minutes isn't a great thing or eating too much isn't good but we are all elite athletes and we all know what is good for us and what is bad for us.

"So I am pretty sure there will be no swimmers running around causing trouble because we are all so focused on what we are doing."

There has been an air of quiet confidence around the team with an aura of concentration on the task in front of them and feet remaining firmly on the ground.

That is something Payne attributes to the former national performance director Bill Sweetenham and his successor Michael Scott as well as head coach Dennis Pursley.

"It all started with Bill Sweetenham, he kind of drilled that ethos into us," she said.

"Michael and Dennis have done a great job over the last four years to keep that going, there have been a lot of youngsters so they weren't around when Bill was here so they've done a great job on doing all that kind of stuff and keeping us focused on what we need to do."

Payne admits "you have to have a certain amount of hard to you" as an open water swimmer, having come across dead dogs and jellyfish as well as flailing arms and legs from opponents.

Out of the water, though, she is serene and composed and her profile has soared over the past year, gracing various magazines and becoming the face of Max Factor waterproof mascara.

It has led to her being described as one of the faces of the Games alongside the likes of athlete Jessica Ennis and cyclist Victoria Pendleton.

She said: "It's really nice to do that kind of thing, it's so different to what we normally have done but I certainly wouldn't class myself as one of the faces of 2012.

"It's been really fun, a really great time that so many different press outlets are so interested in us as athletes so that has been really fun."

While Payne has been tipped to take gold in Hyde Park, she repeats the athlete's mantra that she can only focus on herself rather than worry about her opponents.

"It's an incredible feeling and I am so proud to be on the team and to be representing my country which is amazing.

"I can't control anyone else's performance, all I can do is concentrate on myself so I'll just be going there and doing what I need to do and focusing on what I need to do and whatever happens happens."

Keri-Anne Payne is a British Gas ambassador. British Gas is getting the nation to show its support for the British Swimming Teams and is giving away free swims. Visit www britishgasswimming.co.uk/

PA

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