Life for Keri-Anne Payne has been somewhat of a whirlwind since returning from the Rio Olympic Games, but Team GB’s self-titled head cheerleader wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
Rio was a third successive Games for the open water swimmer but the 28-year-old was unable to add to her Beijing 2008 silver after finishing seventh in what was a gruelling battle along the Copacabana bay.
She previously struggled to deal with narrowly missing out on the medals in London four years ago, and credits the lead up to the Rio Games with helping her fall in love with her sport once again.
And although a medal wasn’t on the cards again this time round, she admits she couldn’t be in a better place as she begins her quest to get more people in the water.
“Rio was amazing, there was just such a great atmosphere throughout the whole city, everyone was so excited and being part of Team GB was great,” she said.
“I loved it and I pretty much became the team’s head cheerleader after I finished competing!
“I was really happy with my performance. The whole four-year cycle for me has been incredible; I was as prepared as I possibly could have been.
“I came out of the event with no regrets having tried absolutely everything, so I was really pleased. Obviously, I would have loved to have won a medal, but it wasn’t to be on the day.
“After London, I was a bit disappointed with the fourth place and I struggled to find out where I fitted back into that world.
“I took some time out, I got married, moved up to Scotland, and it was the combination of new surroundings and a new club that made me realise that I wasn’t quite finished with the sport.
“I still wanted to inspire people and get people excited about open water swimming, and for me, the challenge for Rio was to be as prepared as possible, and along that journey, I completely fell back in love with the sport.
“At the moment, I’m not making any decisions about Tokyo. Four years is a really long time, so I’m just enjoying my new business, being a wife and a daughter for the time being, and enjoying being out of the training pool.”
As the dust begins to settle on yet another astonishing Olympic Games for Team GB, Payne is throwing herself into helping the next generation of athletes coming through with her work for SportsAid.
SportsAid is the national charity that helps the next generation of British sporting superstars, helping them with financial support and recognition during the early stages of their careers, and 46 of Team GB’s 67 medals in Rio were won by the charity’s alumni.
And for ambassador Payne – who will help out with MyLotto24’s ‘Ride, Run and Row to Rio’ event during the upcoming SportsAid week – it’s never been more important to give something back.
“I can’t wait to get involved with the event. It should be a really great day and I’m looking forward to it,” she said.
“I think SportsAid is fantastic. It’s giving these young athletes who just need a confidence boost and that financial help to get them to the next level.
“Confidence comes at a greater price than any kind of money, especially as a young athlete, and the great thing about SportsAid is that they have a bank of athletes who have this amazing knowledge and want to give back and pass it on to all these youngsters.
“What SportsAid do is amazing and that’s why I wanted to get involved with them. I wasn’t a SportsAid athlete myself but I’m still so excited to be part of the charity because they just do such great things.
“So many athletes wouldn’t be at the Olympic Games without their help, and so to have a charity like that in our country is something I wanted to be part of.”
You can make a real difference to the next generation of British athletes heading for Tokyo 2020 and beyond by getting involved in SportsAid Week – a brand new fundraising initiative taking place from Monday 26 September to Sunday 2 October 2016. Please visit http://www.sportsaid.org.uk/sportsaidweek/ to find out more.