Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Keri's gold mission

Ker-Anne Payne still has to pinch herself to believe she is the holder of an Olympic silver medal.

But the Stockport Metro swimmer is already plotting how to go one better in London in 2012.

The 21-year-old from Heywood took silver in the 10k open water race in Beijing just ahead of her Stockport team-mate Cassie Patten to continue a tradition of Olympic success for the Cheshire club.

Of the eight British swimmers who have won Olympic medals in the last twelve years, four have heralded from the Greater Manchester club with Payne and Patten joining Stephen Parry and Graham Smith as Metro medallists.


Silver and bronze helped Britain take a record number of podium places in China - enough to finish third in the medals table, behind superpowers USA and Australia.

Yet, having had a few months to reflect on this summer's success, Payne feels the biggest achievement is continuing her club's Olympic medal tradition.

"It was really good to have my team-mate Cassie there, to share the experience with her, because she's one of my good friends from Stockport.

"To be able to come back with the knowledge we did this for Stockport makes you very proud."

It was Smith in the 1996 Atlanta Games who started Metro's medal rush with a bronze in the 1500m freestyle while Parry followed in his footsteps in Athens in 2004 with a bronze in the 200m butterfly.

Payne, who also competed in the 200m and 400m individual medley, reflected on the gruelling two-hour swim in the ice-cold rowing lake of Beijing.

"Before the race I was very nervous, I just couldn't stop moving. As soon as I dived in it went though.

"I don't really remember too much about the race. I can remember the start and finish but the middle chunk is just one long blur. Swimming in the rowing lake there were markers saying 1000m, 2000m and it was useful to have those as a gauge. We also saw all our team-mates cheering along the side, which was fantastic.

"Around the last buoy it was just a case of going as hard and as fast as I could - last 100m it was go, go, go, put your head down and go for it."


Incredibly, 120 minutes of competition was not enough to separate the medallists by more than four seconds.

"The tight finish made it a very exciting race. I'm looking forward to the next couple because we gave the Russian gold medal winner Larisa Ilchenko a scare, I don't think she was expecting that. Hopefully we'll get her next time," Payne declared.

"It's been hectic since we got back and I've enjoyed every second of it. Meeting the Queen has been the highlight but it's also been lovely to go round schools and see the children's faces light up, hopefully inspiring one or two future Olympians."

Sean Kelly, head coach at Stockport Metro, was also on duty in Beijing.

"Getting two medals from one club is great," he said. "but, as a coach, you always want your swimmers to win and I can't lie, I was disappointed one of them didn't win the gold.

"I knew the open water event was where the girls were going to strike. They swam fantastically and kept up the good record of getting Olympic medals from Stockport."

The reason for Stockport Metro's unrivalled success at the Olympics is obvious to Kelly.

"The huge support we receive from the council is a massive factor. We're subsidised around £200,000 a year by the Sports Trust and a lot of people don't appreciate that.

"There's not that many schemes around the country that invest as much as that. It allows us to keep the cost of swimming down for the kids who come here. But we get out what we put into it, and what we deserve."

Originally published in the Manchester Evening News on December 30 2008