Whose heart didn’t go out to Keri-Anne Payne, Team GB’s freestyle swimmer, who stood by the Serpentine in tears after losing out on a medal by less than a second? Despite putting in a valiant last effort for a medal position, she admits later that a mistake around the feeding station cost her the race and dashed her hopes of an Olympic gold.
Much was expected of the twice 10km world champion and when Y! Lifestyle chatted to her and her mum Pat as the Olympics closed, both are openly unsure of the future.
“I knew in the water what was happening. And I made a mistake at the feeding station and it was just too much for me to recover from that. When I crossed the line, even though it was close, I knew I hadn’t done enough to get into a medal position,” explains Keri-Anne. “It hasn’t really needed to sink in because I analysed what had happened while I was still in the water.
“I think they put medals round the athlete’s necks before the Olympics even started,” Pat says. “But the trainers and coaches are constantly asked how many medals the think their team will win. They have to come up with a number.”
The race has been criticised for the violent tactics used by the swimmers to keep each other back. Keri-Anne has described it as an ‘argy bargy’ on a level she has never experience before.
“It’s difficult because I’ve managed to avoid being part of the pack and this time to be in the middle of it was kind of unexpected for me. But I don’t want to get sucked into that kind of swimming - that’s just not who I am.”
“It’s so hard being on the bank,” adds Pat. “As her mum I’d do anything to jump in and push everyone away.”
In the past, coming fourth has spurred Keri-Anne on. Her mum previously spoke about how proud the family were of her position at the Commonwealth Games in 2006, but how crushed Keri-Anne was by the result. But this time round, both Pat and Keri-Anne are less sure of what this Olympic disappointment will do for her drive.
“It’s a totally different situation now,” explains Pat. “It’s up to Keri-Anne what she wants to do. We’re in a different place to 2006.”
“I’m just going to take some time away now. I’m getting married next month and I just want to have a rest. Afterwards I’ll make my decisions,” Keri-Anne says.
Keri-Anne will be supported at her wedding by bridesmaid and fellow GB swimmer Rebecca Addlington, who also failed to achieve her predicted gold. Rebecca commented that she was ‘too old’, after her race, perhaps due to being beaten by new kid on the block Katie Ledecky, aged just 15. Kerri-Anne will be 28 by Rio, and as she’s discovered during this Games, she’s not prepared to be part of the pack.
But regardless of where she finished, Keri-Anne has been inspirational in promoting the sport, encouraging thousands to give outdoor swimming in lakes and ponds a go.
“That’s something I’m most pleased with. I get so many messages on Twitter and pictures of people ready to jump in, saying they wouldn’t have even thought about it if it weren’t for me.
“That was one of the things I most wanted to achieve with these Games and I think I have.”
And as all thoughts turn to the legacy of the Olympics, perhaps that’s as important as adding to the GB medal tally.
Keri-anne and Pat Payne were speaking through the P&G nearest & dearest programme, a programme designed to support the family and friends of athletes before and during the London 2012 Olympic Games
At the heart of Team Mum is the video series Raising an Olympian, sponsored by Procter and Gamble, which profiles athletes from across the world, their dedicated efforts to make it to Olympic Games, and the mothers who had tremendous impacts on their lives. Watch the videos on Yahoo! Lifestyle Team Mum.