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Keri-Anne Payne says she was ‘dunked, hit in the face’ in ‘carnage’ at open-water swimming world championships

Jul 23, 2013, 11:57 AM EDT

Keri-Anne Payne AP

British two-time world champion Keri-Anne Payne described the women’s open-water swimming 10K race at worlds Tuesday as “absolute carnage.”

Payne, who finished 14th and failed to defend her world titles from 2009 and 2011, criticized tactics used by other swimmers in an interview with the BBC from Barcelona.

“I have no idea how many places I lost going around one of the last markers, but I was getting pushed, dunked, hit in the face and swam all over,” she said. “I am so disappointed that girls think they can be that rough during the race and get away with it.”

Brazilians Poliana Okimoto and Ana Marcela Cunha went one-two in the event. Americans Becca Mann, 15, and Christine Jennings were eighth and 10th, respectively. Mann lost her goggles late in the race, according to The Associated Press.

A bit of physicality is a staple of open-water swimming. Payne surely knows this, having competed in two Olympics and winning two world titles in between. It didn’t help that the field of 53 swimmers Tuesday was twice as large as the 2012 Olympic field.

Payne was in medal contention until late in the race, according to the BBC. Sky Sports reported she was in second place going into the final lap and was impeded on one of the final turns.

“The referees before the race said they were going to be really strict on this, and I don’t think they were strict enough,” Payne said, according to Sky Sports. “I don’t think this race needs to be won on who has got the biggest elbows or who can dunk somebody the most.

“It should be done on skill and agility – maybe that is part of it and maybe it’s a part I am not very good at.”

A British teammate making her worlds debut agreed with Payne.

“It was absolutely brutal out there today,” said Danielle Huskisson, 20 who finished 33rd. “It wasn’t what I was expecting, and I was being pulled all over the place, but it is all good experience for the future.”

Payne, 25, was one of Britain’s biggest hopes for swimming gold at the London Olympics. She settled for fourth in the 10K, four tenths of a second off the podium, and mulled quitting the sport after.

“If this is what happens in open-water swimming now and I can’t handle it then, to be honest, I’m probably doing the wrong sport,” Payne told the BBC. “I really don’t want to sound like I’m moaning because at the end of the day I absolutely just didn’t have enough or what it took to be the world champion today, but it wasn’t the type of race I was hoping for.”

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