Nup­tials set Payne back on course for Rio re­turn

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - RIO 2016 SWIMMING - By Daniel Schofield

Plan­ning a wed­ding ranks pretty high among life’s most stress­ful ex­pe­ri­ences but for Bri­tish open­wa­ter swim­mer Keri-Anne Payne it served as a cru­cial dis­trac­tion that pre­vented her quit­ting the sport.

The 28-year-old won a sil­ver medal in the in­au­gu­ral open-wa­ter event of the Olympics at Bei­jing in 2008. Four years later, she was well set for another podium fin­ish in the com­pe­ti­tion, which was staged in Hyde Park, un­til a sin­gle mis­take re­sulted in her be­ing “swum over” by her ri­vals. Al­though she bat­tled back from 12th, Payne had to set­tle for a fourth-place fin­ish.

“That was pretty heart­break­ing,” Payne said. “It was some­thing that took a lot out of me phys­i­cally and men­tally.”

The light at the end of the tun­nel were her nup­tials to fel­low swim­mer David Carry the fol­low­ing month and all the prepa­ra­tion that en­tailed.

“Some­times if you fo­cus solely on one thing then ev­ery­thing else can seem so far away and so dif­fer­ent,” Payne said. “If I had not have had a wed­ding to plan I prob­a­bly would have strug­gled and my de­ci­sions could have been quite dif­fer­ent.”

As it was, Payne re­solved to re­main in the sport, but only af­ter tak­ing a year out to travel the world. To­gether with her coach Lau­rel Bai­ley and Bernie Di­et­zig, Bri­tish Swim­ming’s lead open-wa­ter coach, they de­vised a plan that Payne hopes will make the “best, most well-rounded open-wa­ter swim­mer on that pon­toon” in the event which be­gins to­day.

Payne, who hopes to re­lease her own cook­book af­ter Rio, openly ad­mits that her train­ing is un­ortho­dox com­pared to that of her ri­vals. Judo lessons have been sought from Olympian hus­band and wife Gemma Gib­bons and Euan Bur­ton to pre­pare her for the rough and tum­ble that fre­quently oc­curs in the melee.

“I am very con­fi­dent in all the train­ing, rac­ing and prepa­ra­tion that we have done,” Payne said. “We have done 200,000 me­tres of rac­ing in the last two years. We have done a huge amount of other things, a cou­ple of se­crets that I can­not tell you about.

“I know the course, I know how to swim through waves. I am set­ting my­self up to do as well as I can. Whether that’s on the podium is the ab­so­lute dream, but I wouldn’t be putting my­self through the last four years if I didn’t think I could win a medal.”

Golden hopes: Keri-Anne Payne plans to im­prove on the sil­ver medal she won in 2008

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