LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s swimmers are battling against the current heading into the delayed Tokyo Olympics but world record holder Adam Peaty will make light of choppy waters to retain his 100m breaststroke title, according to his predecessor Duncan Goodhew.
Peaty was Britain’s only swimming gold medallist at the Rio Olympics, emulating Goodhew’s feat at the 1980 Moscow Games in the same event, but has been forced to train in a tank in his garden because of the closure of the country’s swimming pools.
While Goodhew says he is concerned at the impact the closure of swimming pools will have on elite and recreational swimmers, he believes Peaty’s prospects will not be effected.
“He is extremely competitive and he is prepared to hold his hand in the fire longer,” Goodhew, president of the Swimathon Foundation http://www.swimathonfoundation.org which is helping the British swimming community stay afloat during the pandemic, told Reuters on Tuesday.
Goodhew won his gold in a time of 1:03 but Peaty’s world record is 55.41 and the 63-year-old says he has taken the discipline to a new level.
“He’s got this whip kick, almost like a rotary engine rather than a piston going backwards and forwards, so he can continue to wind the engine up to a higher RPM than others,” Goodhew said. “Then there’s the psychological advantage the true greats have. They often win because everyone else lets them win.”
While Peaty will be favourite to retain his title, Goodhew predicts a tough Games for the British team.
“The lockdown has been so severe with the swimming pools being shut we are swimming against the current,” he said. “Any success we have should be lauded all the more because of the extraordinary journey that swimmers would have gone through to be as prepared as they can for Tokyo.
“It’s difficult to overcome if you know the Chinese have been in the pool the whole time and you haven’t.”
Goodhew believes some swimmers will struggle with having to effectively prepare for 25% longer for the re-scheduled, but thinks Peaty will not let that effect him and would not rule out a lowering of the world record.
“He knows his event boils down to one minute every four years and will be ready,” he said.
“I would be pleasantly surprised but not shocked if we get a fair number of world records in Tokyo,” he said.
Goodhew, however, has concerns that a generation of new Peatys might be lost because of the pandemic.
“Imagine you have the most talented breaststroker that ever lived and he never learns to swim,” he said.
“In Britain we were struggling anyway with three-year waiting lists on learn-to-swim programmes and we know last year over 10% of the pools did not open when they had the chance to open (after the first lockdown) for a variety of reasons.
“That is incredibly worrying for the sport of swimming and I think it’s a wider concern for us as a civilized society.
“Is it acceptable for us to have a lost generation of kids that are unable to swim because of the pandemic?”
The Swimathon Foundation distributed around 50,000 pounds ($69,000) in grant funding to support local swimming groups struggling as a result of the pandemic last year and has pledged a further 30,000 pounds in grants.
“Swimming pools are national treasures, we are a nation of swimmers,” Goodhew said. “Swimming has the most amazing physical and mental benefits. Ask any physician and they are more likely to say that swimming is the best all-round exercise for you.”
($1 = 0.7250 pounds)
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)