Payne carries GB medal hopes

  • Last Updated: August 8 2012, 17:06 BST

British hopes of a swimming gold medal all rest on Keri-anne Payne's shoulders on Thursday when she takes to the Serpentine for the 10 kilometre open water.

Keri-anne Payne: Will take to the Serpentine

A disappointing performance in the pool last week saw Team GB emerge with just three medals, two bronzes by Rebecca Adlington and a superb silver by Michael Jamieson.

That compares unfavourably with Beijing, when two golds and a bronze in the pool were followed by three medals in the open water courtesy of Payne, Cassie Patten and David Davies.

Patten has now retired with Davies on the brink of bowing out leaving Payne to carry the flag for the women and Daniel Fogg the men.

Given only two qualified for the open water, the maximum number of medals Britain can end up with is five, the base target set by British Swimming and UK Sport.

It would, though, still prompt uncomfortable questions for British Swimming from the top down given it is the fourth-best funded sport in the UK, receiving £25million per year.

Payne won silver in Beijing and has subsequently claimed two world crowns to be cast as favourite.

The 24-year-old is adamant the nature of open water, with the different types of course, renders that meaningless.

She said: "You can see from the results over the last couple of years....

"I was second in Beijing, I won the worlds after that but then the worlds after that I came 10th and then in Shanghai I won.

"So it completely depends on who is the best athlete on the day, who makes the right decisions and the best decisions and so I just have to go in and focus on what I have to do and then hope for the best."

On Wednesday the Johannesburg-born swimmer was training in the Serpentine, where she will do six laps on Thursday, accompanied by - among others - Fogg, his coach Kevin Renshaw and open water performance manager Mark Perry.

Some practice was focusing on the finishing board which competitors have to slap at the end of the race, which is higher than usual here.

Of Payne, Perry said: "She's in good spirits, she's on form I think. "She changes as the race gets closer. You can tell when she's got her game face on.

"She's definitely up for the race now."

The open water entourage moved out of the Olympic Village once the swimming had finished and into a hotel 10 minutes walk from Hyde Park.

With much of the Olympic competition having come to an end, removing themselves from that environment has been beneficial given the need for focus while Perry insists the wait to compete has not been difficult.

He said: "Not as hard as you think it is. She has always been focused on this race. She didn't race in the pool.

"Quite often she wasn't there for finals [in the pool], we were training. She watched a lot of it on TV. She supported her friends - and David (fiancee David Carry).

"We are a semi-unit on our own and we wanted to get away and do our own thing. And the other reason is that there are more athletes in the village now from every nation and that can be quite hard if you're an athlete who still has to focus."

Given the Serpentine is a lake, with no current or choppiness, it suits pool swimmers.

Even the issues of ducks and swans have been addressed, the former by being fed from one place to which they now flock.

As for the swans, Perry said: "I'm reliably told the swans are on holiday at a swan holiday camp. They take their families."

With Thursday's race not starting until midday, Payne can get up at a reasonable hour and go through her own pre-race ritual, although Perry was not disclosing what that entailed.

Payne always goes out hard, leading from the front, a tactic that is no longer a surprise for the likes of Italy's Martina Grimaldi and Marianna Lymperta of Greece, runners-up in Shanghai last summer.

However, every last detail has been accounted for from feeding plans to race plans and different scenarios as Britain desperately seeks that elusive gold.