Rebecca Adlington had a year that showed she has learnt to deal with the pressure that comes with being a world record holder and Olympic champion, showing great guts and determination to leave Shanghai with gold and silver medals and to finish the year as Britain’s only number one ranked swimmer.
Despite Adlington’s undoubted excellence however, it was the performance of the first athlete to book a place in London that caught the eye at the World Championships, particularly given the gruelling event in which that feat was achieved. As a consequence the Pullbuoy swimmer of the year for 2011 is Kerri-Anne Payne
The Stockport based swimmer had a year to remember, as she regained the 10km open water world title she had first won in Rome in 2009 and demonstrated that she will be a force to be reckoned with in the Serpentine next summer. The manner of the victory was also impressive as she took the lead almost from the gun and led the field virtually throughout the 2-hour long event.
Since taking up open water swimming seriously, Payne has developed into one of the finest exponents of the discipline and yet is still able to turn her hand to the pool events – indeed in 2011 she also qualified herself for the 4 x 200m freestyle relay squad and swam the 1500m freestyle in the pool in Shanghai, an event in which she had broken Rebecca Cooke’s British record at trials – one of only two long course marks to fall in 2011.
Whether the aquatic centre will have the same appeal in London given the prize on offer in the open water remains to be seen, particularly given the programming which places the open water events after the conclusion of the pool programme, but if that leads to a 100% focus on the 10km that can only increase the chances of a home victory.