London 2012 will boost the whole UK, says Keri-Anne Payne

By Matt SlaterBBC sports news reporter

The Olympics will inspire youngsters across the UK, according to one of Team GB's strongest medal hopes in London.

With London 2012 only 100 days away, a BBC-commissioned poll has revealed that support for the Games diminishes the further you go from the South East.

But open water swimmer Keri-Anne Payne is adamant that everybody in the UK can contribute to the success of the Games, and benefit from London 2012's legacy.

"Everybody needs to get behind local athletes who are competing," she said.

Payne added: "They can feel a sense of pride that somebody from their home town is competing at the Olympics."

The double world champion and 2008 Olympics silver medallist lives in Greater Manchester, and trains in Stockport.

"I hope to get a lot more youngsters from Manchester, and the whole North West, into pools after the Games and that can only be a good thing for the entire nation," she said.

"You've also got the Olympic Torch going around the whole country, so everybody should get behind that.

"OK, most of the Olympic events are going to be in London, but you've got the football up here and that will be great. I think we can all get behind London 2012 and benefit from its legacy."

Payne's main event, a 10km scrap in Hyde Park's Serpentine, takes place on 9 August, and the 24-year-old will be leaving nothing to chance in her bid to go one step higher on the podium than she managed in Beijing.

There she finished just two seconds behind Russia's Larisa Ilchenko, who had dominated women's marathon swimming in the build-up to the Games but has since seen her position usurped by Payne.

The South African-born British star has just recovered from a bout of illness, and is set to travel to Spain's Sierra Nevada mountains for a block of heavy training in a pool at altitude.

Her next race will be the LEN Cup in Israel, a race she won in dominant fashion last year.

After that, she intends to acclimatise herself to domestic conditions by taking part in the British Gas Great Swim Series races in London's Docklands on 26 May, and Cumbria's Lake Windermere on 23 June.