Open swimming is a peculiar kind of water torture, but Edinburgh-based Keri-Anne Payne insisted she had no regrets about putting her herself through the pain in Rio.
Dutch swimmer Sharon van Rouwendaal claimed gold in the 10km open water event, taking on the race in the final two kilometres to finish ahead of French world champion Aurelie Muller and Brazil’s Poliana Okimoto.
Payne missed out on automatic qualification for Rio when she finished 15th at last year’s World Championships, but made the team after a good swim at the final qualifying event in Portugal.
She was 15th after five kilometres, but started picking off rivals in the second half of the race to come home in seventh, 52 seconds behind van Rouwendaal.
Open water swimming often resembles a full contact sport. Flailing arms and legs mean black eyes are an occupational hazard and Payne admitted struggling against some full-on tactics.
She was also hoping for some of the wild and windy weather from earlier in the Games, only for millpond conditions to play into the arms of the pool specialists like the gold medallist.
“I’m pretty tired after that and pretty sore but I gave everything that I had in that race,” she said.
“The plan coming into this was to be the best and most well-rounded open water swimmer and that’s exactly what I am.
“If the conditions were different, this would have been absolutely perfect for me. The fact that it was really flat and really calm totally played into the pool swimmers’ arms and that’s exactly what we had.
“Going round the buoys was absolutely carnage. To come through that, to know the girls were that far ahead, to be able to see the Dutch girl in front and know I couldn’t catch her up can be really heartbreaking.
“But for me it was a good spur that I needed to carry on and catch those girls up at the end which was a great achievement.”
Payne added: “The most amazing thing for me was swimming on this course and seeing to my left Corcovado with arms out-stretched. It was the most iconic race on the Copacabana beach and it couldn’t really get any better than this.”
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