He may well go down as one of the all-time greats in his sport, but ask most people in the street if they’ve heard of Adam Peaty, and you’ll most likely receive a blank look or a shrug of the shoulders in reply.
The 22-year-old made waves last year by winning Great Britain’s first gold medal of the 2016 Rio Olympic games in the 100 metres breaststroke, during which he broke the world record set by himself the previous night, winning with a time of 57.13 seconds.
Over the past few nights at the 2017 World Aquatics Championships in Budapest, Peaty has shown himself to be a truly awesome competitor. So dominant is Peaty that he now holds the 10 fastest swims in history for the 100 metres breaststroke.
Peaty’s long-term mission is “Project 56”, clocking under 57 seconds for the first time, and then another gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Nothing seems beyond man from Uttoxeter’s reach at the moment.
Great Britain qualified fourth fastest for Wednesday night’s 4×100 metres mixed medley relay – giving Peaty the chance to go for two gold medals in an hour in Budapest. Britain won world gold in Kazan, Russia two years ago in a world record of three minutes 41.71 seconds, with Peaty on the breaststroke leg.
Adam Peaty lapped up his winning moment on Tuesday night in front of the 12,000 strong crowd. “I find the (Union) flag so motivating,” he said. “As soon as I look at that in the crowd, it’s game time. I just love racing. I love doing it for my family. I love making them proud.”
But Peaty’s haul was matched in equally sensational fashion on the second night of racing at the Duna Arena as Ben Proud thundered his way to a first global title in the 50m butterfly gold.
“I am on the verge of tears,” said London-born Proud, who moved back to the UK from Malaysia at the age of 11. “It has been a dream since I was six years old.
“The pieces of the puzzle have come together. I was panicking before as I couldn’t get my clothes off, but once I put my foot on the block, it was just about me and my race.”
Legendary American swimming Mark Spitz has seen enough in Peaty’s breaststroke at the Rio Games and at the Duna Arena to offer a glimpse into why the Englishman is so ahead of the pack in his discipline.
“He’s incredible and had almost a full body length with 12 metres to go. I mean ‘oh man’, that was only in the preliminaries,” Spitz said.
“He is swimming for records now and that is hard to do. But somewhere in somebody’s career they decide that they are swimming just for times, especially when they are trained and rested like Adam Peaty.”