OLYMPICS LONDON 2012: Swimming faces questions as Payne latest to miss medal target
THERE'S been a lot of British success messing about in boats at these Olympics but when it comes to swimming, it's been two weeks that has so far bordered on water torture.
STRUGGLE: Payne insisted she felt no added pressure despite poor performance by pool
swimmers at the Games
Keri-Anne Payne was meant to ease the pressure by winning gold in the women's open water swimming but her performance summed up these Games - she finished fourth.
It means some uneasy questions will now be posed to swimming's key officials in the days ahead.
So far, British swimmers have won just three medals - one silver and two bronzes - with men's open water competitor Daniel Fogg still to race today.
It means they won't achieve their top target of six medals, the amount won in Beijing when the team claimed two golds, two silvers and two bronzes.
And, more importantly, they will be nowhere near the five medal base target set by funding agency UK Sport, who have pumped £25.1 million into the sport in the last four years.
Urgent questions will need to be asked about how swimmers qualified, particularly in the pool, as the majority of the team, with only a handful of exceptions, produced their season's best at the trials, rather than at the Games.
And British Swimming is not alone. Australia has ordered a review of their performance after winning ten medals and just one gold, their worst return in 20 years - and what Britain's performance director Michael Scott would have given for that tally.
Payne said she didn't feel any additional pressure to deliver because of the team's so far disappointing show.
However, it was clear from early in her near two hours of ultimately fruitless endeavour in London's Serpentine that she was struggling.
Payne, who won the world title in 2009 and 2011 and claimed silver in Beijing, likes to lead races from the front, avoiding the flailing arms and legs, and occasionally dirty tactics, that occur if you get caught in a bunch.
But Hungary's Eva Risztov set the furious pace and took gold ahead of American Hayley Anderson and Italy's Martina Grimaldi. Payne finished less than half a second off the podium.
"It was a tough race but I was never going to come out of this race having any energy left," she said.
"I have worked so hard for this, trained for the last 12 years of my life for it and I gave it absolutely everything I had," she said.
The top three girls that won are absolutely outstanding swimmers, I can't be too upset losing to such great athletes.
"There was quite a lot of fighting but I don't think any of it was intentional.
I have never really been in the pack before so maybe it is like that the whole time but it certainly felt a little bit violent and I'm a lover not a fighter.
"There was a bit of argy-bargy. It took a lot of energy out of me - it is why I like to lead so I don't have to worry about fighting. It takes a lot out of you.
Payne will now use the next two months to get over the disappointment by organising her wedding later this year to British swimmer David Carry, who gave his fiancee a long and tearful hug just moments after she left the water.
She admitted this might have been her last competitive open water race, even though she is still only 24.
"I will take a little break now," she said.
"I am getting married soon so that it is going to take all my focus for the next couple of months.
"It is not the end of me in the pool but I will definitely take a break from the open water."
Payne's big day is ahead but British swimming's big days are nearly over and there's work to do after being stood up by the rest of the world.
© Sportsbeat 2012