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Team England camp is 'essential' in preparing athletes for multi-sport competition, says former Olympic swimmer

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Former Olympic swimmer Keri-anne Payne believes the Team England Futures program is essential in preparing young athletes who may compete in multiple sporting events later in their careers.

Heywood star Payne, who won silver in the 10km open water swim at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, is an ambassador for SportsAid, a charity that runs the program with the support of Sport England.

As part of that, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham will bring athletes considered future participants to experience an event of its kind for the first time.

We toured the Athletes’ Village, watched various sports, and got a behind-the-scenes look at other facilities available to athletes.

Payne, 34, said:

“But while I was preparing for the event, I had to focus on what I was doing and was distracted by the fact that there was a gratuity provided with each meal and breakfast could be whatever I wanted. You have to be careful not to be.

“It’s about understanding that nutrition really is a big part of it, be it walking, waiting around, sleeping in a new bed in a room with someone who might not be there before.”

“That said, another thing that I wish I had known as early as some of these athletes is, yeah, it’s a big competition and there’s a lot of people here and There are differences, but in the end it’s the same race, the people are the same.

“If these young athletes have the opportunity to attend a game like this before going to their first game, they won’t be surprised by it.”

Payne has competed in three Olympic Games and two Commonwealth Games, and won World Championship gold medals in the 10km open water event in 2009 and 2011.

But she admits she could have done something like the Team England Futures program before attending the first Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006.

“I’m the type of girl who gets nervous about everything,” Payne said. “But at her first Commonwealth Games in front of 17,000 people, she wasn’t nervous when she reached the final of the 800m freestyle.

I was like, ‘I don’t know what’s going on and what to do,’ and I didn’t perform very well.

“I don’t know if it was because I wasn’t nervous or just because I wasn’t playing, but it convinced me that it could happen.

“It was my first major competition. I was very inexperienced and had a terrible time. I think we could have put in a good performance.”

Commonwealth Games England has appointed SportsAid to lead the development, management and operational delivery of Team England Futures at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. For more information on the programme, please visit