Peaty punches the water after retaining his Olympic men’s 100m breaststroke title
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Before he made history Adam Peaty reached into his kitbag and pulled out an envelope.
On it was written his name and inside, on a piece of paper, a simple message from Eiri, his partner and mother of his baby son.
“This is what it is all about.”
Outside the talk was of a one-horse race, of how much Peaty would win by and of why the 100m breaststroke was a race he couldn’t lose.
Never mind that no British swimmer had ever retained an Olympic title, that ‘dead certs’ Jade Jones and Helen Glover had both been beaten on the opening weekend of these Games. This was a done deal.
Peaty looked again at Eiri’s message. She hadn’t spelt out the challenges he had faced preparing for these Olympics in a pandemic.
Training alone in a tank in the back garden, being denied competition, moving into a new home, becoming a first-time father to George.
Peaty: 'That race was mine to lose and everyone knew it'
(Image: AFP via Getty Images)
Her message assumed all of that. It was a call to focus. For her Adam to take strength from the sacrifices and not let them count for nothing.
He nodded to himself then walked into the Tokyo Aquatics Centre and won the final of the men’s 100 metres breaststroke in a time of 57.37 seconds.
“Think of it like this,” he said later. “You’re looking for promotion and have worked your arse off for five years to get that promotion and now you have 57 seconds to prove yourself.
Peaty with partner Eiri and son George
“Under that pressure a lot of people can fold. I’ve shown, time and again, that I can perform when it matters. That’s what I do.
“But that race was mine to lose and everyone knew it."
The pride of Uttoxeter said he fought that thought "because no-one’s invincible, everyone can be beaten, and what we’ve seen here these last few days is a lot of unexpected performances.
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"A lot of people who should be going in and defending and winning medals being kicked out.”
So Peaty shifted his focus from times and records to simply getting the job done. As Eiri intimated, he had sacrificed too much to let it slip now.
“I sleep next to a medallion, a religious thing,” he said. “It’s a reminder for me of those times being woken up at 3am because you’re sleeping next to a baby.
Britain's greatest swimmer wins in a time of 57.37 seconds
(Image: Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
“George was waking up every two hours for a nappy change, every hour for a feed, and I was thinking, ‘f**k me me this is going to be hard’.
“I hid a lot of stress even from my own family. People were like ‘mate this is going to be hard’, and I was like ‘yeah, yeah, I can do this’.
“But my eyes slowly got heavier and heavier, and it was like I need to get on that plane to a competition – not so that I can perform but so that I can sleep.”
Peaty: 'I just know in my blood and in my bones no one has worked harder than me'
Come the race you would never have known any of this. Peaty went out hard, turned in front and got to the wall with 0.63secs to spare ahead of flying Dutchman Arno Kamminga.
“I just know in my blood and in my bones no one has worked harder than me,” he said, emerging from the pool. “No-one has been through what I’ve been through.
“There’s been so many challenges – and some f**king breakdowns as well – because I'm training three times a day, every single day, giving everything for this swim.
“And while I didn’t feel particularly special out there, I knew I was going to fight until my last breath."