What’s it like to… dive into jellyfish for your job

Brit open water swimmer Keri-ane Payne

Swimming over deep-sea creatures for a living? Ugh. British Olympian Keri-anne Payne reveals all about her professional open-water swimming career.

It was actually my coach who said why don’t you give open water swimming a go and see how you get on.

I was doing 800s at the time in 2006 and I wasn’t really doing very well at them, I wasn’t enjoying swimming quite so much, so we just decided to change events.

That was when I started doing the 200 and the 400 medley and the open water and I just kind of found a love for swimming again. The open water 500 was brilliant because it was outdoors and it’s a different challenge every time you swim – even if it’s in the same place every single time, it’s different.

I remember my very first open water swim was in Melbourne in St Kilda beach in 2006. After I’d done it I didn’t really enjoy it too much I must admit. I thought, ‘I’m not so sure about that’. The next swim was the World Championships which was in the same place, so it was only a couple of months in between.

So in the March we came back and what we didn’t notice when we went in in December was that there were little jelly blobs everywhere and they end up growing into jelly fish.

Any creatures of the deep to report, Keri-anne?

The jellyfish were huge and there were just literally thousands of them and you just had no choice but to swim through them.

I remember standing on the pontoon, there were about 50 of us girls about to dive in and because it was quite clear you could see them, they were just there, and everybody was just looking at them going ‘Oh my goodness.

Right focus on the race, focus on the race, don’t focus on the fact that you’re going to have to dive into hundreds of jelly fish’.

But it’s just part and parcel of the sport – I knew that if I didn’t do it – the girl next to me and the girl on the other side would do it and they were just going to grit their teeth and get on with it, so it’s very much that kind of attitude, you just have to grit your teeth and get on with it.

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Author: Jo Gunston

Roving blogging superfan shares behind the scenes stories of her sports life and the best of those from like-minded souls.

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