Keri-Anne Payne was the first Briton to qualify for the 2012 Olympics and will be competing this summer in the 10km open water swim.
As a fierce competitor, baking enthusiast and two-time world champion athlete, Keri-Anne currently lives in Manchester with her fiancé, David Carry. Stylist caught up with the 24-year-old Olympic hopeful this week to discuss everything from Twitter to her plans in the run-up to London 2012. Read on to find out more and for a chance to win a place in the British Gas Great London Swim alongside Keri-Anne in London at the end of this month...
How did it feel to be the first Briton to qualify for London 2012?
Incredible. It’s such an honour to represent my country and it was just an added privilege to be the first one announced.
Do you feel any added pressures this year, what with you having taken a silver medal in Beijing and this being on the home turf?
At the moment, I can’t afford to think like that. I’ve just got to keep training and hope that it goes well. I’ve been training for the Olympics for the last twelve years. I wish I could say that my routine is different now in the final build up, but in fact every week has been the same – I am doing nothing differently. Luckily, the support has been great – I just hope we can carry on the momentum. I’m really excited.
"Sometimes your mind can wander obviously, and I find myself thinking 'what do I want for dinner?'"
How do you relax and do you get much time away from swimming at the moment?
I get Wednesday afternoons off, and Saturday and Sunday, which is nice. Obviously, it’s very strict – no partying or going out or anything like that…
And what about the baking? We hear that that’s a hobby. Is there time for that at the moment?
I’m loving baking now more than ever at the moment – it’s one of the things I can do. Yes, I still bake.
Open water swimming can be a pretty brutal sport. Would you describe yourself as a thrill-seeker?
Not really, unfortunately. Open water swimming is a violent sport, but it is regulated and it has the same system as a football system. One day I will do another sport, a different sport – and something completely unrelated to swimming and the water I hope – but not for a while. I still love swimming, I wouldn’t be doing it every day if I didn’t.
What has been your best win and your worst race?
My best race is without a doubt Beijing and the Olympics. Even though the year after was when I became world champion. The Olympic memory is special. It’s a bit hazy, but it’s something I’ll always have to look back on.
My worst was actually probably a race I did soon after the Olympics in 2008. It was in New York, on the Hudson river, and I wasn’t very fit. I’d just had some time off and the conditions were really difficult.
"The Beijing Olympics memory is special. It’s a bit hazy, but it’s something I’ll always have"
Do you find swimming a lonely sport or is there too much to think about?
I don’t really. Lots of my best friends are swimmers, Rebecca Adlington, etc. and in training it’s fine because I have a coach, a trainer and a partner with me all the time. When it comes to the races, the open water swim is 10km or two hours long. There’s so much to think about in that time like position, the weather, the current, when I’m turning next, that I don’t really have a chance to get lonely. Sometimes your mind can wander obviously, and I find myself thinking ‘what do I want for dinner?’ but I guess that’s only natural.
You’re a fairly big presence and voice on Twitter (@KeriannePayne). Is it important to you to engage with and speak to your fans?
It’s really important, yes. I love hearing from them, and they have been such great support. People always tweet me for swimming tips and advice, and when people ask questions, I always try to respond. I’ll probably have to calm down with the hints in the upcoming weeks, as I need to focus, but they have been great, yes.
Have you heard about Stylist’s Fair Game campaign to get equal sponsorship, funding and awareness of women's sport? What do you think of the amount of coverage that is afforded to women in sport these days?
It sounds great. Actually, one of the things that I do think needs to be afforded more coverage is the men and women in minority sports. There are some exciting sports out there, like the triathlon, and lots that people don’t know much about. It’s the job of the journalists to get knowledge of these sports, and to tell people.
And finally, do you have any plans for after the Olympics?
I haven’t had a chance to look to the future just yet, no. Hopefully something different, but we’ll cross it in a few months!
Keri-Anne Payne will be competing in the British Gas Great London Swim at the Royal Victoria Dock on May 26 2012, in preparation for the London Olympics. Fancy taking part alongside 5,000 other swimmers from first timers to Olympic champions? Stylist magazine is offering ten lucky readers the chance to win a place in the race alongside Keri-Anne. Click here to find out more
Words and interview: Sophie Haslett.
Picture Credit: Rex Features. Keri-Anne Payne is pictured above thrid right with fellow athlete, Cassandra Patten, after they both won medals in Beijing.