On Monday, Adam Peaty achieved his destiny by winning Great Britain’s first gold medal of the Games in the 100m breaststroke at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre. It made him the first British swimmer to defend an Olympic championship, adding to an already impressive collection of records, feats, and titles that takes nearly as long to read as it does to swim the distance.
Five-time world record holder, three-time world champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and the best breaststroke swimmer of all time.
Peaty gained the lead at 25 meters, held it into the turn, and by the final 25 meters, the only question was whether Adam Peaty could break his own world and Olympic records. He couldn’t quite do it. His final time was 57.37 seconds, the seventh quickest in history.
He celebrated with a private prayer, overcome with emotion and tiredness. Nothing is as simple as he makes it appear. Only a few swimmers in history, including Johnny Weissmuller, Tamas Darnyi, Vladimir Salnikov, and Michael Phelps, have won more races over this distance than him in the last seven years.
At this moment, Peaty is also one of the best Olympic athletes Britain has ever produced in any discipline, a man who is so dominant in his event that everyone else in the world has abandoned it. Second place is the best they can hope for.
Netherlands won this time, finishing in 58 seconds flat, Adam Peaty
Arno Kamminga of the Netherlands won this time, finishing in 58 seconds flat, quicker than any man in history save the one who came before him. Nicolo Martenghi of Italy won bronze, while Peaty’s teammate James Wilby finished fifth.
There’s a chance there’ll be more. Duncan Scott, Peaty’s British teammate, and Tom Dean, Peaty’s American teammate, both advanced to the final in the men’s 200m freestyle on Tuesday. Scott was the fastest qualifier, winning his semi-final in 1min 44.6sec.