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Payne Reigns Again In 10km For 2012 Ticket

Jul 19, 2011  - Craig Lord

Keri-Anne Payne retained her world 10km marathon crown at the 14th FINA World Championships at Jinshan City Beach in Shanghai this morning to become the first British athlete to qualify for the home Olympic Games in London 2012.

The 23-year-old coached by Sean Kelly at Stockport and now heading for the 1500m freestyle in the pool next week, made her signature fast start that got her clear of the pack and out of trouble by the time she reached a sharp 90 degree turn at the first buoy just 200m from the start. 

Payne led until the third of four 2.5km circuits before Australia's Melissa Gorman took up the strain for a while. On the last lap, Payne, who trains at the Stockport Intensive Training Centre, proved a class apart, however, and she stormed back into the lead, drew with her those rivals who could stand the pace and held off a late attack from Italy's Martina Grimaldi  to win in 2 hours, 1 minute 58.1 seconds. Grimaldi was reigning world champion in the sport that has a world title every year away from the FINA five-disclipline showcase event that takes place every two years.

Payne's victory was Britain's first triumph and podium visit at the championships that got underway last Saturday - and the first Brit to make the home Olympic team courtesy of a selection criteria attached to all open water swimmers at the championships: finish top 10 and you book a place in the Serpentine, Hyde Park, a year from now.

Born in Johannesburg and a swimmer who in her youth refused to wear goggles, helping her to build up what would become a very useful in-built navigation system in open water conditions, emerged from the race to say: "I really wish I could swear right now but I am not that kind of person. It feels amazing, I'm just so happy with myself for doing that. To be on that Olympic team at a home Olympics is going to be absolutely amazing. I'm really pleased. It's a weight off my shoulders. I can concentrate on training now for next year and I don't have to worry about qualifying because I've already done it."

Payne, who will marry teammate David Carry soon after the London 2012 Games, acknowledged that there was now pressure on her as a gold-medal hope at a home Games but she had known that that would be the case: "I'm sure there will be added pressure on me going into the Olympics but I'll just work on that coming into it," she said. "I'm definitely going to have a target on my back but we'll see how it goes."

She also noted an added reason to smile: "It was brilliant, I've just found out my sister is in labour so hopefully it will be a good day all round."

Grimaldi, who won her open water title in Roberval last year amid continuing problems over suits, with some swimmers having access to apparel that others had not even known about (all approved suits must be available to all swimmers under FINA rules)   claimed silver in 2:01:59.9, the bronze going to Greece's Marianna Lymperta in 2:02:01.8, her nation on the podium for the first time.

The others who got a ticket to London 2012: Gorman, Cecilia Biagioli (ARG), Poliana Okimoto (BRA), Jana Pechanova (CZE), Angela Maurer (GER), Swann Oberson (SUI) and world short-course 800m champion Erika Villaecija (ESP), who will now head for action in the race pool. 

All the rest must now pin their selection homes on the Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier to be held in Setubal off the Portuguese coast next year.

Meanwhile, a world champion once more, Payne can now turn her attentions to the pool programme where she has qualified for the 1,500 metres freestyle and 4x200m relay.

You can read more from Payne on SwimNews in the Speedo special from Shanghai.

The water temperature for the race in Shanghai was a fairly hot 30C or 86 degrees F, just inside the newly recommended limit of 31C (87.8F). many in the sport believe that limit to be way too high. Pool swimmers race over 50m to 1500m under rules that set a to limit 3C lower than what is required in open water over distances of up to 25km in world-title waters. Open water swimmers have called for a 28C limit to be imposed in their sport.

Safety is a major issue in the sport after the death of American Fran Crippen off the coast of the United Arab Emirates last October. Crippen went missing towards the end of a 10km race in Fujiarah but his absence was not spotted. His body was recovered more than two hours after the race ended after his teammates had raised the alert and a search was conducted in chaotic circumstances. A FINA report acknowledged that serious mistakes had been made and the rules of the sport needed overhauling.

In Shanghai today, Italy's Giorgia Consiglio, a pre-race medal favourite and 2010 world title silver medallist, was pulled from the water at the midway stage of the race suffering breathing problems. She was carried to a waiting ambulance and taken to an onsite medical tent. She was given oxygen and is said to have recovered well.

Organisers in China are using a high-tech sonar system to quickly locate any swimmer who slips out of view below the surface.