By Steven Munatones, Swimming World Open Water correspondent
ROME, Italy, July 22. KERI-Anne Payne, the 10K silver medalist in the Beijing, lived up to the pressure of being one of the pre-race favorites. Payne, as she did in Beijing, led most of the race from the front, held off several surges from her competitors from Brazil, Italy, Russia, Germany, Australia and the U.S.
But, it was her navigational savvy that really helped her win her first world championship gold. On the last loop, Payne withstood a surge from Martina Grimaldi of Italy. Payne and Grimaldi swam shoulder-to-shoulder down the back straightaway into the final turn buoy. But, Payne was wisely on Grimaldi's right side as they entered into the final turn. Going in together, Payne came out with a body-length lead which she maintained during the last 650 meters.
Essentially after swimming 10,000 meters, the difference between gold and silver was one great buoy turn. But, like a great painting, there was a lot of planning and preparation going into that last turn. Payne and her coach Sean Kelley have been tinkering with her training, doing more kicking and working on her sprint speed.
"We try to focus on speed for the 10K," Kelley said. "Keri-Anne has improved three seconds in the 200 free. This is important for an event like the 10K. We work on her kick [in workout]"
"I thought that last turn was the race," Kelley said. "They went in together and came out with a body lead."
Being in the lead, both at the finish and throughout the race was Payne's goal.
"A lot of girls tried to take the lead spot and the girls had a hard 5K race yesterday, so I was confident coming into this race," Payne said.
Her confidence showed as she led the field and was only occasionally joined in the front by the world's elites, minus one. At the 5K mark, Larisa Ilchenko, the reigning Olympic 10K champion, voluntarily pulled out of the race, limping from the water with an apparent leg injury.
With Ilchenko out of the water, it was Payne's race to lose and she was not about to let that happen.
"Ever since Beijing, I have felt a lot of pressure," Payne said. "But, I kept focus and I have got to deal with it as I look forward to doing well in the pool and open water with our main goal of doing well in London."
GOLD: Keri-Anne Payne (GBR), 2:01:37.1
SILVER: Ekatarina Seliverstova (RUS), 2:01:38.0
BRONZE: Martina Grimaldi (ITA) 2:01:38.6
4. Andreina Pinto Perez (VEN), 2:01:40.8
5. Angela Maurer (GER), 2:01:40.9
6. Linsy Heister (NED), 2:01:41.0
7. Poliana Okimoto (BRA), 2:01:41.5
8. Margarita Domingues (ESP), 2:01:45.6
9. Marianna Lymperta (GRE), 2:01:45.7
10. Jana Pechanova (CZE), 2:01:50.2
11. Alona Berbasova (UKR), 2:01:58.9
12. Manon Lammens (BEL), 2:01:00.3
13. Alannah Jury (NZL), 2:01:01.0
14. Teja Zupan (SLO), 2:02:03.1
15. Yanqiao Fang (CHN), 2:02:4.0
15. Nika Kozamernik (SLO), 2:02:04.1
15. Iris Matthey-Jaquet (SUI), 2:02:04.4
15. Karla Sitic (CRO), 2:02:04.5
15. Odette Beresneva (UKR), 2:02:04.5
21. Patricia Maldonado (VEN), 2:02:05.9
22. Ana Marcela Cunha (BRA), 2:02:06.4
23. Stefanie Biller (GER), 2:02:07.1
24. Silvie Rybarova (CZE), 2:02:07.7
24. Emily Brunemann (USA), 2:02:07.7
24. Alejandra Gonzales (MEX), 2:02:07.8
27. Maaike Waaijer (NED), 2:02:10.1
27. Eva Fabian (USA), 2:02:10.3
29. Melissa Gorman (AUS), 2:02:16.0
30. Katia Barros (ECU), 2:02:20.3
31. Alice Franco (ITA), 2:02:22.1
32. Ophelle Aspord (FRA), 2:02:22.9
33. Zsofia Balazs (CAN), 2:02:24.3
34. Yu Shi (CHN), 2:02:28.3
35. Katy Whitfield (GBR), 2:02:37.7
36. Danielle DeFrancesco (AUS), 2:02:55.4
37. Yurema Requena Juarez (ESP), 2:03:16.8
38. Natalie du Toit (RSA), 2:06:22.5
39. Nataly Caldas Calle (ECU), 2:06:26.9
40. Natasha Terri Wing Yung Tang (HKG), 2:09:15.4
41. Aurelie Muller (FRA), 2:09.23.7
Larisa Ilchenko (RUS), DNF
Swann Gabrielle Oberson (SUI), DNF