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Q&A with Keri-anne Payne

The 10km open water swim on Monday will be the third Olympic appearance for TeamGB’s Keri-anne Payne. She finished second in 2008 and fourth in front of her home crowd in the Serpentine at London in 2012. After taking some time off from racing, she secured her Rio berth with a convincing second place performance at the final qualifying event in Setúbal, Portugal. 

What are your hopes for Rio? Is it enough to compete in a third Olympics or will you be only happy with a podium finish?

I am not going just to get the t-shirt! Over the past two years I have tried to make myself the best and most well-rounded open water swimmer in the world. Everything I do is towards making myself the best athlete I can be, so I want to be standing on that podium. It is something that is in the back of my mind in every race, in every training session, in everything that I do. 

After coming fourth in the London Olympics, do you feel pressure on you to succeed and medal at Rio?

If you’d asked me five minutes after London if I wanted to carry on I would have said no. But this is my choice, I have chosen to compete, and I have chosen to try and be the best that I can be. A lot of people are writing me off because I will be the oldest swimmer there, but I am enjoying being the underdog. I am looking forward to doing what I do best, which is open water swimming.

Are you worried about the water quality in Rio?

I swam at Rio in the Olympic test event and have swum at Copacabana previously and I didn’t get ill after either of those races. I am confident that there is nothing wrong with the water and I am really looking forward to swimming in such an iconic location.

Jack Burnell And Kap In Hungary By Colin Hill Ms2

TeamGB marathon swimming medal hopefuls Keri-anne Payne and Jack Burnell

What is your view on the current state of open water swimming in the UK?

It is incredibly exciting. One of my proudest moments was walking out at the London Olympics and hearing 30,000 people cheering for me. It was amazing that so many people had chosen to come and watch open water swimming and such a difference compared to Beijing, when I still had to explain to people what open water swimming was. Today, more and more people are taking on really cool swimming challenges. 

What do you think about FINA’s proposed new wetsuit rules?

Dealing with the warmth, the cold and with the elements is part of the beauty of open water swimming. It will be a shame if wetsuits are introduced. I understand that there need to be limits set for safety, but I think more research needs to be done into what those limits should be. 

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Jonathan is a year-round skins swimmer with a particular love of very cold water. He has competed in ice swimming competitions around the world. He is a qualified open water coach with a particular love of introducing new swimmers to the open water.