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SHANGHAI, China, July 18. GREAT Britain's Keri-Anne Payne returned to the top of the podium after a one-year hiatus during open water swimming at the FINA World Championships.
Payne, who won the 10K event in 2009 in Rome, but was not a member of the 2010 podium in Roberval, held off a hard-charging lead pack to emerge victorious today and punch her ticket to the 2012 London Olympics. The title is the second for Great Britain, and its fourth medal in open water competition as Cassandra Patten took silver for Great Britain in 2007 and 2008. Payne completed the swim in 2:01:58.1 for the win.
Defending 2010 champion Martina Grimaldi of Italy took second in 2:01:59.9 for her third straight podium in the event. She took bronze to Payne in 2009, and won a controversy-filled event in Roberval. Techsuit questions flared up during the 2010 event, with claims that only some nations received the fastest suits. With techsuits off the table now, the playing field has been leveled.
Greece's Marianna Lymperta finished third for bronze in the event today with a 2:02:01.8 to give Greece its first open water podium at a world championships.
The rest of the top 10, which all automatically qualified to compete in the 10K at the 2012 London Olympics were Australia's Melissa Gorman, Argentina's Cecilia Biagioli, Brazil's Poliana Okimoto, Czech's Jana Pechanova, Germany's Angela Maurer, Switzerland's Swann Oberson and Spain's Erika Villaecija Garcia. USA swimmers Christine Jennings and Eva Fabian finished 13th and 30th, respectively. Five swimmers were unable to finish the race, while Hungary's Eva Risztov was disqualified.
With 10 out of 25 spots selected, the next step in qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics will take place at the 2012 Olympic Marathon Swim Qualifier to take place in Setubal, Portugal.