ELLIE Meadows will swim the 1,500m Open Water event at the National Championships in a fortnight, and what better way to warm up than by spending a day with two-time world champion Keri-Anne Payne?

The Wycombe District Swimming Club star met her hero at the Henley Mile on Sunday, when swimmers from around the country met to swim the famous regatta course.

Payne, a two-time World 10km Open Water champion and Olympic silver medallist, duly won the main event but Meadows, suitably inspired, marked her first ever river swim with a victory in the 12-14 year age group.

The 12-year-old said: “I didn’t really know what to expect because I’m used to pool swimming and I was nervous waiting for the race.

“But once I got into the river I started to feel excited and I really enjoyed it once the race had started. It was good to get clear of the other swimmers and I got into the rhythm of my swim.”

Meadow’s rhythm was so good in fact, that she took more than a minute off her pool long course record, slicing it from 10:02 minutes to 8:50 minutes.

She said: “I was amazed when I saw my time. I felt like I’d swum my best, but I hadn’t expected to do a personal best and I was surprised to win because I thought that there would almost certainly be 13 or 14 year olds who’d be faster than me.

“Also, a wave of older swimmers were set off before us so I wasn’t sure where I’d come.”

Meadows’ win continues a fine summer for the Wycombe & District Swimming Club star.

She qualified for 13 South Bucks County Championship and six regional events this year, and surprised herself by earning a place at the national championships in Sheffield in the first week of August.

She said: “I’ve been very fortunate at WDSC having Craig [Oliver] as my coach and Kevin [Brooks]. They’ve really given me confidence and my swimming has improved so much as a result.

“My target at the nationals is just to do my best and to come away feeling proud of myself.

“The opposition will be strong and I know I’ll be very nervous on the day, but the Henley Mile has taken away the fear factor about swimming in open water and it will be a great experience.”

And besides, according to Payne, nerves are no bad thing.

Meadows said: “Keri-Anne is someone I really look up to. We got to see her Olympic medals which was really cool and she wished me good luck for the Nationals. She said feeling nervous was a good thing.”