‘Enjoying the ride’: Keri-Anne Payne set for stellar 2016, says Rebecca Adlington

Four-time Olympic medallist Rebecca Adlington believes Keri-Anne Payne’s smarter approach will see the Stockport swimmer battling for a medal at Rio 2106.

After finishing an agonising fourth in the 10km open water event at London 2012, Payne took some time away from swimming and subsequently saw her funding cut.

But after finishing 15th at the World Championships the 28-year-old won the Rio Olympic test event in August to prove she is one to watch at this summer’s Games.

Adlington knows exactly what Payne can do as they both climbed the podium at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Adlington won 400m and 800m freestyle gold eight years ago while Payne was claiming an open water silver medal, and the former is convinced a less is more approach will pay off big time in Brazil.

The British swimming team for Rio 2016 will compete at the European Aquatics Championships in London, with the event the last chance to see the nation’s best compete internationally before the Olympics.

“I think with Keri-Anne, it’s been a weird journey for her but now she’s just enjoying the ride a little bit more,” said Adlington, who also won two bronze medals at London 2012.

“She’s just got to that place where she’s like ‘if it happens, it happens and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.’

“She’s understood everything a little bit more and hasn’t put everything into it. She’s become smarter in that way.

“She’s tactically very, very good in the open water, and that experience counts for a lot.

“She’s physically in great shape and I think she just gets stuff a little bit more when it comes to the racing. I would love to see her up in the medals.”

Adlington was speaking back at the London Aquatics Centre, four years on from her 2012 Olympic heroics as she looks ahead to this summer’s European Championships at the same venue.

The European Championships will be the last major event before the Rio Olympics and Adlington fully expects Payne and her fellow Brits to lay down a marker ahead of the party in Brazil.

The European Championships have not been held in the UK since 1993 and have not been held in London since 1938.

“The British swimming team are looking absolutely incredible at the moment,” she added. “They’ve had a fantastic couple of years, from the Commonwealth Games to the World Championships in Kazan last year they absolutely smashed it.

“This summer it’s nice because they’ve got their trials where they qualify for the Olympics next month, which is really good.

“Then we’ve got the European Championships in London in May where they’ll get to size up the whole of Europe and just see where everyone’s at, see what everyone’s feeling and thinking ‘Oh yeah, I’m going to rule him out of the Olympics.’

“That’s great, but I also think we’re in the perfect opportunity to win lots of medals at the Europeans as well because the team has got so much depth now, I think that’s the difference.

“I think a lot of those guys that were making finals in London will want to get on that podium at Rio. I think some of the younger guys that didn’t get to experience a home Olympics have got a fantastic opportunity now to race here at the Europeans, get that experience so they’re not being thrown in at the deep end going into an Olympic Games with 17,000 people.

“That is quite daunting. It is quite a lot of pressure, whereas they can come here and hopefully learn how to cope with that and learn how to deal with that.”

Tickets for the European Aquatics Championships – the biggest event to be held at the London Aquatics Centre since the 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games – from May 9-22 are now available here:

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