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Plaudits For Lochte, Franklin, Lurz & Payne

Dec 5, 2011  - Craig Lord

Ryan Lochte and USA teammate Missy Franklin were voted FINA's swimmers of the year, while Thomas Lurz (GER) and Kerri-Anne Payne (GBR) claimed the open water swimmers of the year honours. 

Lochte, coached by Gregg Troy in Florida, emerged from FINA World Championships in Shanghai as the supreme act, titles claimed in the 200m freestyle200m backstroke, 200m medley, 400m medley and as a member of the USA 4x200m freestyle quartet, his 200m medley victory setting the first world long-course record of the post-shiny suits era. 

Franklin took the world 200m backstroke title in Shanghai and also claimed gold as a member of the US 4x200m freestyle and 4x100m medley quartets, silver in the 4x100m free and bronze in the 50m back. The 16-year-old coached by Todd Schmitz in Colorado, clocked the fastest 200m free time in the world this year when leading off the victorious 4x200m free team in Shanghai.

In October in Berlin she added to her treasury when set the first world s/c record among women since the ban on non-textile suits, her 2:00.03 in the 200m backstroke on world cup tour contributing to her claiming second place  overall in the series. That and a world record bonus earned her a $60,000 prize, one which she did not claim for feat of jeopardising her chances of swimming as an "amateur" under out-dated NCAA college rules.

Lurz, coached by brother Stefan in Wurzburg, won the 5km world crown, took silver in the 10km and emerged world cup marathon champion in 2011. The most decorated open water male swimmer in history and the first aquatic athlete to earn an official place at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Lurz was at the helm of a campaign for better organisation of and safety in open water in the wake of the death of Fran Crippen (USA) in a FINA 10km cup race off the coast of Dubai in October 2010.

Payne claimed the same honour among women, making her the first Brit to earn selection to a home Games, by retaining the world 10km marathon crown in Shanghai. Coached by Sean Kelly in Stockport, Payne way not deemed good enough to make the top 10 short list for the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year award. The jury, made up of male editors of Britain's leading newspapers and somewhat misogynist men's magazine titles, favoured an all-male list of golfers, cricketers and others, causing a national outcry that may now be followed by a change in the way the BBC's awards are granted in future. 

Payne, who turns 24 on Friday this week, is also a world-class pool swimmer: in March this year she won medals in all distances from 200m to 1,500m freestyle, the latter producing gold and a national record, at the British Championships. Olympic marathon silver medallist in Beijing, Payne will be among the most cheered athletes when she arrives for racing at The Serpentine in Hyde Park next summer in front of a home Games crowd.