Payne back for Midmar
British swimming star Keri-Anne Payne is the most successful swimmer in the history of the Midmar Mile, with seven victories to her name.
The two-time world champion admitted at the official launch of the 2012 Midmar Mile in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday that winning seven titles had long been a goal of hers.
Born in Johannesburg, Payne lived in South Africa until the age of 13 and had her first taste of the world's largest open water swimming event before she relocated to the United Kingdom.
Yet her memory of winning the Midmar Mile 13-and-under title remains clear and a big highlight in her career with the subsequent few moments after her success having driven her to achieve what she has.
"It was my first win and my family was ecstatic," she recalled. "My dad's done it [swum the Midmar Mile] something like 15 times, so it was always a really big family thing that we did. I love coming back because it's such a good memory from when I was a kid.
"I remember my dad and brother saying to me 'well done, that's really good but that Natasha Figge, I am not sure that there will ever be anybody as good as her!'. That was it for me. I decided then and there I wanted to be better than her!"
"I guess I can thank my brother and my dad, and their love of Natasha Figge, for pushing me on and going for the most number of wins."
As of 2012, Figge had six wins to her name whilst Payne owns the record with seven.
Usually Payne, who finished an unfortunate fourth in the 10km open water swim at the 2012 London Olympics, would be accompanied by a British team at the Midmar Mile. However, things are somewhat different this time around.
"I'm here on my own this time," she said. "Normally I would have come across with my old club, Stockport, but that's not happening this year. I'm actually training with Chad [Ho, the three-time men's champion]. I owe him a training camp," she said.
"He came out and did an altitude training camp with me in Spain. He was my training partner and he was the biggest help possible. I owe him so much for helping me by coming out there, so I decided to come here a bit earlier [than usual], just to get a bit more distance training in and repay the favour that Chad did for me last year before the Olympics.
"It's really good to be here and to give something back to the Midmar Mile," she added, "the organisers have been brilliant to me. This is my eleventh swim, which is something I'm so glad that I could do, and I'm so grateful to [event organiser] Wayne [Riddin] for helping me do that. Without his help and support it wouldn't have been possible for us [the British swimmers] to
have come out here as regularly as we have."
Some things, though, do not need to change. Like the Midmar Mile. It has been a constant on Payne's calendar - even last year, when London hosted the Olympics and she's happy to return once more, aiming for a remarkable eighth title.
The Midmar Mile takes place on February 9 -10 at the Midmar Dam, just outside Howick in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.