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Swimming - 05. May 2008.


Britain's long distance swimmers gained an excellent start to the 5th FINA World Open Water Swimming Championships with both Cassie Patten and Keri-Anne Payne finishing in the top ten to qualify their place at this year's Olympics against a world-class field.

Patten sent a clear message of intent to her competitors for the Olympics by claiming the silver medal just behind last year's World Champion Larisa Ilchenko of Russia.

Last year's World Championship silver medallist Patten (Stockport Metro) got off to an excellent start alongside club-mate Payne as they battled to get to the front of the pack. Payne hit the first turning buoy in the lead with Patten following close behind.

As the athletes moved towards the 1km mark Patten made her move and began stretching out the pack to take the lead. At the second turning buoy, Patten had a full body length lead over Ilchenko who had overtaken Payne.

When the race entered the half way point Payne was in third place behind Ilchenko and Patten, but found herself slip further down as the race entered the final lap.

Patten remained in the lead throughout the race and controlled the pace but with Ilchenko and Du Toit fighting it out close behind she showed her strength to keep herself in with a chance of a medal.

Ilchenko's sprint finish proved too much for Patten as she overtook the Britain in the final 500m and claimed the gold medal in a time of 2:02:02.7. Patten secured her silver medal and the vital Olympic qualification spot with a time of 2:02:05.8.

"I am overjoyed with that result," Patten said. "I was really hurting in the final lap but I just thought that if I kept on I would become the first person to qualify for both the pool and open water and this is what I wanted so I kept myself going and got the second place.

"Last night I was really nervous, I didn't doubt myself but I knew that it would be a really tough race. I knew that one wrong move and I would get pushed back because of the quality of the field.

"Girl's races do tend to be closer than the men's races. I just wanted to be outside of the pack because it is a better when you have some space."

Patten showed real strength of mind and body to overcome the challenge of competing alongside the world's best all vying for a top ten finish.

"I didn't have a plan going into the race. I just wanted to get in there and enjoy it. I didn't want to be in the lead but after a good start I found that it was the natural place for me to be. I hit the 800m mark and pushed it out a bit because it was all very close.

"I have led races in the past and I haven't got the result after it. I knew that I wanted to be out of the pack, I heard lots of whistles blowing and I looked around and saw lots of people all within a couple of metres of each other and I knew that I was in the best place.

"I really enjoyed myself out there I just went out and relaxed and it was the best I felt in a 10km race today. My stroke rate was good throughout the race and that was really great to see. I got a good time and I know I have work to do before the Olympics but this is a great starting place."

The bronze medal went to Spain's Yurema Requena with a time of 2:02:07.2.

Payne slipped down the field as she got stuck in the pack but finished in 8th place overall to guarantee her place in the British Open Water Olympic squad with a top ten finish.

"I planned to stick to the front of the pack," Payne said. "I started well and I was in the top three for a long part of the race but there was a lot of fighting and I slipped back a bit, but I do think I should have stayed closer to the leaders.

"It is great to have qualified and I am pleased with the result. Pool swimming is my main focus and so to qualify in open water is a definite bonus. It is great to be one of the first people to qualify in both the pool and in open water.

"I am now going to get back to the pool and work on my medley training and my gym work to improve my fitness for future races."
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