HECTOR Pardoe has been told his Tokyo turmoil will harden him for the heat of Paris Olympic battle.

The Ellesmere marathon swimming star, 21, competed at his first Olympics in Japan but was unable to finish the race after suffering a serious eye injury midway through.

But Keri-anne Payne, a Beijing 2008 marathon swimming silver medallist, believes that crucial first Olympic experience combined with three years more training will ensure Pardoe is equipped to roll with the punches in Paris.

The 35-year-old, speaking ahead of exactly 500 days to go until the Games this week, said: "The open water team in Britain at the moment is still a young team but it's really important for Hector to have had that previous Olympic experience.

"With it being such a weird year with Covid, I really hope Hector's training has been more robust this year.


"Training for an Olympics by yourself, in an endless pool in your garden when you're a long-distance swimmer, that is really tough.

"But now, hopefully he's had this time to work on his tactics.

"Between Beijing and London I spent four years just racing as much as I could to try and deal with the punches, literally.

"It can be tough in that environment, but you've got to roll with it and not let that affect you, so hopefully that's what he took from Tokyo and it helps inspire him to Paris."

Payne was catapulted into the spotlight during the Beijing 2008 Olympics after she won a silver medal in the women's 10km event.

And with just four years until a home Games in London, the 35-year-old worked hard to focus on her skills and promote the sport of open water swimming.

Payne, speaking at a SportsAid Week event, added: "I got into open water just before the Beijing Olympic Games and came home with a silver medal," she said.

"That really cemented my open water status from that point forward.

"I spent the next four years really honing my skills ahead of a home Games, I mean to be a home athlete, I genuinely now know how Rockstar's feel.

"Unfortunately I came fourth in London which was really tough but in hindsight, now we're ten years away, I still get people coming up to me and saying that because they watched that swim, I inspired them to take up open water swimming.

"To realise where the sport has come from and where it is now, that legacy is probably one of my proudest moments to date."

SportsAid Week 2023 took place from Monday, March 6 to Sunday, March 12 and was a dedicated week of fun and awareness-raising based around theme of accessibility and inclusion. Please visit www.sportsaid.org.uk