In the latest of our weekly
series profiling leading British Olympic hopes in the build-up to the Games, BBC Olympic sports reporter Nick Hope speaks to two-time open water world champion swimmer
Keri-Anne Payne hopes the distraction of her own wedding can help her win Olympic gold in 2012.
Beijing silver medallist
is one of GB's big medal hopes in the pool and fast becoming one of the faces of the London Games.
And as the pressure builds, she hopes she can stay on course for success by planning her marriage to fellow swimmer David Carry.
Payne wins World Championship gold
"We've done so much of it already, but there's frilly bits like invitations left and that's the sort of thing I can do before the Games to take my head out of swimming, the stress of that, and just focus on doing something a bit different," Payne told
Payne, 24, won Olympic silver less than two years after taking up open water swimming full-time and was the
first Team GB athlete to qualify
for the London Games.
For some, the hours of wedding planning and preparation could prove problematic, but husband-to-be and two-time Commonwealth champion
reckons it's the perfect antidote to the stresses of being an elite athlete.
"Keri-Anne always needs a project before a big competition," said the 30-year-old Scot. "Before Beijing and the World Championships [in Shanghai], there were
in Stockport. Now, what better project to have than a wedding."
Rings of the Olympic and marital variety are still some months off, though, and are a world away from Payne's childhood in
, South Africa, where at the age of two she could be seen precariously balanced on the edge of her elder brother's floats during his training sessions.
Rebecca Adlington analysis
Keri-Anne is an amazing athlete, a great person and also a Suduko master! She is one of my closest friends on the GB team and I can't wait to watch her in the open water event
"Her favourite thing at that age was to sit on the end of Mark's board whilst he was kicking," reflected her mother, Pat.
"A couple of times, she fell off and he wasn't always looking at what she was doing and so his coach decided to teach her to swim."
A young Payne excelled, but the world may never have known of her true talents were it not for a chance meeting between her parents and then GB national performance director
at a training camp in South Africa.
"Keri-Anne was about seven or eight and when we went to pick her up he heard us talking to her," said Pat. "He asked 'are you British?' So Jim and I said 'yes' and he said 'well, why are you living in this country with a talented girl like that?'
"We thought it was a bit strange, but we started looking at what she was doing and based a lot of what we did after that around her swimming."
There was never a question about the Payne children's nationality.
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“She is my hero really because when she puts her mind to something she won't stop until she's perfected it”
"We never ever registered them as South African, we registered them at the British consulate," said Pat. "We wouldn't have given up our passports for anything. It was never an option."
Four years later, the Payne family returned to the United Kingdom, basing themselves in Heywood, Greater Manchester.
Sweetenham continued to monitor the swimmer's progress and eventually suggested she join GB swimmers Steve Parry, Graham Smith and Adrian Turner at Stockport Metro ITC,
headed up by Sean Kelly
It was Kelly who suggested Payne, who had broken the British junior
800m freestyle record
in 2002, take up open water swimming.
Payne's financial support had been cut after failing to win a medal at the
2006 Commonwealth Games
and she was struggling for motivation.
"She wasn't enjoying swimming, so we put together a plan of action and introduced her to open water, which would access funding," Kelly told BBC Sport. "She tried it, absolutely hated it, but realised she had a talent for it. Because she was getting good, she began to love it."
Although she finished
just two seconds behind
winner Larisa Ilchenko at the 2008 Beijing Games, a silver in the sport's Olympic debut certainly proved Payne's ability in swimming's marathon event.
Steve Parry analysis
Keri's a fantastic ambassador for the sport and one of the only athletes that has managed to combine an open water and pool swimming career. The way she swims her open water races takes a lot of courage and is physically draining. To lead from the front for 10k is a huge feat but she has stuck to that strategy from an early age.
Victory in Shanghai
at the World Aquatics Championships followed a year later, but it was a bronze medal in the 400m individual medley at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi that made her accept change.
"That's really where I decided that open water is where I need to be and what I need to be doing," she said.
"I always felt that I had a point I needed to prove, that I could do medley swimming and that I could swim in the pool. But it did make me realise that it probably would only ever be a bronze medal. I am an open water swimmer first, but I will always be a pool swimmer at heart."
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“Swimming in rivers in China was probably the worst thing I've done in my life, with dead animals all of the way down the river”
The Stockport swimmer still intends to compete in the pool in London, just as she did in Beijing.
Her place for the open water event in
London's Hyde Park
is already assured, but she will have to secure positions in the 800m freestyle, 400m IM and 4x200m freestyle relay team at the
British Swimming Olympic Trials
"I thought it was a really good to do the pool swimming because you get all of those nerves out," she said. "It would be really nice to get a good swim in and soak up a little of the atmosphere as it's going to be very different to any competition we've ever done before."
reigning open water world champion,
Payne will enter the Olympics as favourite, but she says her focus is on simply enjoying the experience.
Will she have a medal to match her gold wedding ring come September? "No matter what happens, it's going to be a brilliant year," she said.