Swimmer of the Year 2011

Kerri-Anne Payne – 2011 Swimmer of the Year

2011 was on the whole a pretty encouraging one for Britain’s swimmers, who performed creditably at the World Championships in Shanghai and indicated that they should be in contention in a number of events come July of 2012.

But while results are considered for the team as a whole, it was the ladies squad that really caught the eye in 2011, taking all but one of the medals won in Shanghai, the only exception being the world title Liam Tancock retained in the non-Olympic 50m backstroke. In that context the Pullbuoy Swimmer of Year was always going to come from the female side of the sport, and despite the strong showing of 2010 winner Hannah Miley and the emergence of Ellen Gandy into world class the choice really came down to two swimmers.

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.