By Greg Stutchbury
GOLD COAST, Australia (Reuters) – Adam Peaty came to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and mostly achieved what he wanted to in his individual events in the pool.
The Rio Olympics 100 meters breaststroke champion and world record holder was one of the faces of the program in the pool before the Games began and the prohibitive favorite for both sprint breaststroke events.
The 23-year-old had been unbeaten in four years in his preferred 100m distance and won the Commonwealth Games title by more than a body length, all the while swimming well within his capabilities.
However, he was beaten by South Africa’s Cameron van der Burgh in the 50m event on Monday when the two-time defending champion stormed off the blocks and the Englishman was unable to reel him in.
“Great race (and I) took it to him,” Peaty said. “I knew it was going to be a tough race. I’ve been off my best all week.
“Even though it’s a silver, I’m more happy with that silver than I was with the gold medal the other day because I know where to improve now, I know where to get the performance from.
“It gives me that reality check – even if you’re the best in the world, the world record holder, you can be beaten. That’s a valuable lesson.”
Peaty’s post-medal ceremony attitude reflected a change in approach over the last two days on the Gold Coast.
Lessons had been learned, ones that he will need to adhere to if he is going to maintain his focus on the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Peaty, who trains under former Olympic swimmer Mel Marshall at Loughborough University, has made no secret of his plans for his ambitious ‘Project 56’ — his desire to break the 57-second barrier in the 100m race.
That drive and attention he has — including being compared to athletics great Usain Bolt for the way he dominates his preferred event — appeared to be affecting him, he said.
After he won the 100m title he said he was disappointed. His stroke did not feel right. He was overthinking everything and his 58.84 time in the final was way outside his world record of 57.13.
“Most people don’t understand what I’m trying to achieve,” he said before the 50m final. “I’ve been going out there with expectation, going out there with that pressure on myself.”
So Peaty said he decided to shake things up for Monday’s 50m final. He was going to relax, have a laugh or two – or else he recognized he would be in trouble heading into Tokyo.
“If I go into these next two years focused and as serious as I am, I won’t be Olympic champion,” he said.
“At the moment I’m saying ‘how can I make myself as happy as possible, how can I enjoy it as much as possible then the performance will come?’
“I want to look back in 10 years’ time and say I gave it my absolute best but I don’t want to look back saying I took it too seriously and didn’t have a laugh along the way.”
(Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Christian Radnedge)