Keri-Anne Payne's goals for 2012 - Olympic gold and a wedding ring

In the latest of our weekly #olympicthursdayexternal-link series profiling leading British Olympic hopes in the build-up to the Games, BBC Olympic sports reporter Nick Hope speaks to two-time open water world champion swimmer Keri-Anne Payne.

Keri-Anne Payne hopes the distraction of her own wedding can help her win Olympic gold in 2012.

The Beijing silver medallist is one of GB's big medal hopes in the pool and fast becoming one of the faces of the London Games.

And as the pressure builds, she hopes she can stay on course for success by planning her marriage to fellow swimmer David Carry.

"We've done so much of it already, but there's frilly bits like invitations left and that's the sort of thing I can do before the Games to take my head out of swimming, the stress of that, and just focus on doing something a bit different," Payne told BBC Sport.

Payne, 24, won Olympic silver less than two years after taking up open water swimming full-time and was the first Team GB athlete to qualify for the London Games.

For some, the hours of wedding planning and preparation could prove problematic, but husband-to-be and two-time Commonwealth champion David Carryexternal-link reckons it's the perfect antidote to the stresses of being an elite athlete.

"Keri-Anne always needs a project before a big competition," said the 30-year-old Scot. "Before Beijing and the World Championships [in Shanghai], there were charity eventsexternal-link in Stockport. Now, what better project to have than a wedding."

Rings of the Olympic and marital variety are still some months off, though, and are a world away from Payne's childhood in Johannesburg, South Africa, where at the age of two she could be seen precariously balanced on the edge of her elder brother's floats during his training sessions.

"Her favourite thing at that age was to sit on the end of Mark's board whilst he was kicking," reflected her mother, Pat.

"A couple of times, she fell off and he wasn't always looking at what she was doing and so his coach decided to teach her to swim."

A young Payne excelled, but the world may never have known of her true talents were it not for a chance meeting between her parents and then GB national performance director Bill Sweetenhamexternal-link at a training camp in South Africa.

"Keri-Anne was about seven or eight and when we went to pick her up he heard us talking to her," said Pat. "He asked 'are you British?' So Jim and I said 'yes' and he said 'well, why are you living in this country with a talented girl like that?'

"We thought it was a bit strange, but we started looking at what she was doing and based a lot of what we did after that around her swimming."

There was never a question about the Payne children's nationality.

"We never ever registered them as South African, we registered them at the British consulate," said Pat. "We wouldn't have given up our passports for anything. It was never an option."

Four years later, the Payne family returned to the United Kingdom, basing themselves in Heywood, Greater Manchester.

Sweetenham continued to monitor the swimmer's progress and eventually suggested she join GB swimmers Steve Parry, Graham Smith and Adrian Turner at Stockport Metro ITC, headed up by Sean Kellyexternal-link.

It was Kelly who suggested Payne, who had broken the British junior 800m freestyle recordexternal-link in 2002, take up open water swimming.

Payne's financial support had been cut after failing to win a medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Gamesexternal-link and she was struggling for motivation.

"She wasn't enjoying swimming, so we put together a plan of action and introduced her to open water, which would access funding," Kelly told BBC Sport. "She tried it, absolutely hated it, but realised she had a talent for it. Because she was getting good, she began to love it."

Although she finished just two seconds behind winner Larisa Ilchenko at the 2008 Beijing Games, a silver in the sport's Olympic debut certainly proved Payne's ability in swimming's marathon event.

Victory in Rome at the World Aquatics Championships followed a year later, but it was a bronze medal in the 400m individual medley at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi that made her accept change.

"That's really where I decided that open water is where I need to be and what I need to be doing," she said.

"I always felt that I had a point I needed to prove, that I could do medley swimming and that I could swim in the pool. But it did make me realise that it probably would only ever be a bronze medal. I am an open water swimmer first, but I will always be a pool swimmer at heart."

The Stockport swimmer still intends to compete in the pool in London, just as she did in Beijing.

Her place for the open water event in London's Hyde Parkexternal-link is already assured, but she will have to secure positions in the 800m freestyle, 400m IM and 4x200m freestyle relay team at the British Swimming Olympic Trialsexternal-link in March.

"I thought it was a really good to do the pool swimming because you get all of those nerves out," she said. "It would be really nice to get a good swim in and soak up a little of the atmosphere as it's going to be very different to any competition we've ever done before."

As the reigning open water world champion, Payne will enter the Olympics as favourite, but she says her focus is on simply enjoying the experience.

Will she have a medal to match her gold wedding ring come September? "No matter what happens, it's going to be a brilliant year," she said.

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