Open water swimmer Keri-anne Payne on the long road to Rio

British open water swimmer Keri-anne Payne won a medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
British open water swimmer Keri-anne Payne won a medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
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Life’s a beach now for Keri-anne Payne who was yesterday named in the British swimming team for this summer’s Olympic Games in the 10km open water event.

Down by the promenade in Portobello, the local cafés provide breaks from extended spells of cooking and baking in the kitchen of the home she shares with her husband of almost four years, domestic bliss to make even Nigella envious

“I saw an article the other day that the youth weren’t going out any more, going clubbing and that sort of thing,” the 28-year-old laughs. “I’m a young fogey, baking in the kitchen, going to bed early, training, doing yoga.”

Except, of course, your average slipper-wearing, recipe-following homebody isn’t up at 4.30am every day to grind out the laps at the Royal 
Commonwealth Pool.

Payne can point to the perks of a little tranquillity. Mentally spent after missing out on a bronze medal by less than a second at London 2012, she felt the need to take a step sideways and reset.

“If I hadn’t had a wedding to plan right after the 
Olympics in London, I might probably have struggled,” she admits. “My decisions might have been quite different. But because I had that to 
look forward to, I just focused on that.”

It took her out of the sport for almost a year but also provided a route back. It helped that her spouse, David Carry, was an Olympian himself in Beijing in 2008 when Payne claimed silver in her long-distance pursuit. Yet there was method behind what some saw as madness, affording her the leeway to decompress before gearing up for the long haul towards Rio.

Used to a relentless grind, the hiatus was unorthodox, she acknowledges. “I had a couple of judo lessons with Gemma Gibbons and Euan Burton which was an interesting experience,” she says. “I travelled the world and did races I would never have had the chance to do before – shorter races in cold water, races with boys and girls – so it’s been a great three-year cycle. I’ve had so much fun.”

Playtime is now over and 200,000 metres of graft have been logged over the past two years to get her ready to take the plunge into Copacabana Beach on a quest for glory. “I certainly wouldn’t have put myself through the last four years if I didn’t think I could win a medal. But it’s a matter of putting myself in the best position on the day.”