At this summer’s FINA World Championships, Great Britain surged to a fourth place finish overall in the medal count, powered by Adam Peaty, James Guy and a mixed 400 medley relay with a world record to boot. Great Britain had finished 16th in 2007, 6th in 2009 and 2011 and 20th in 2015, so the Brits ended 2015’s championships in a prime spot of 4th.
For his part, Peaty clocked a new world record in the 50m breaststroke while in Kazan, registering a new mark of 26.42, while also winning the 100m breaststroke against chief rival Cameron Van der Burgh from South Africa.
Even before Kazan, Peaty made major waves for Britain, establishing a new world record in the 100m breaststroke with an almost unbelievable 57.92 swum at the British National Championships. That sub-58 swim eclipsed the old record by over half-a-second and made the 20 year-old Peaty the first British swimmer to hold the World Record in teh 100m breaststroke event since 1991.
Peaty recently spoke to SwimSwam, reflecting on his individual success, as well as the overall path of British swimming.
Q: What do you think has led to the surge in breaststroke in Britain in the last two years?
Peaty: “I think it’s capitalized year on year ever since the London Olympics. We push each other to new boundaries and we all know that if we slip then it will cost us not only on the world stage but also on the GB stage, where we need to perform at the highest level to make teams. British breaststroke across the board is extremely talented and packed full of many swimmers who can do great times, so with that on your chest every day I think it pushes me to new limits and I’m sure it does the same to my opponents and teammates.”
Q: How does that depth change your approach to the British Trials as compared to a time when the country wasn’t as deep, or as compared to other events where the challenge for Olympic spots might not be as great?
Peaty: “I haven’t been around for long in terms of other athletes in the system but I welcome the challenge and love pushing myself day-to-day to become the best I can be at trials and the Olympics. Compared to other countries where there isn’t as much depth or competition for places, I think it really helps as we know we must go fast to qualify and make the team, which would hopefully put us in a good position for the Olympics.”
Q: We hear people say “making the British team as a breaststroker is as hard as making a podium at the Olympics.” What sort of emotion does it evoke hearing that?
Peaty: “It makes me want to work harder than ever. I hope it’s going to be a fast race at trials as then you can be better prepared for the Olympics by already going through that kind of pacing. It is what it is and all I can do is be the best prepared as I can be and enjoy the journey along the way.”
Q: Specifically with regard to your masterful turnover: How much of that is natural, and how much of that was consciously learned and practiced?
Peaty: “A lot of my stroke was set in when I was young. Things like my timing of the stroke was vital for where I am today. Obviously as I got older I got bigger and stronger so it was more about adapting my size to the stroke. I think my stroke is quite unique with the head drop so aggressive, but it feels completely comfortable to me and I don’t have to think about it at all. I put a lot of practice into things like my hands, turns and dives; dives will be even more practiced this year.”
Q: You don’t do much underwater. Is that something you’re looking to change between now and the Olympics, or are you content with your current technique and race strategy?
Peaty: “My underwater has always been my weakness and I will be looking into doing something which is best for me, which might be holding my pull out longer or shorter, as I have always been faster on top of the water. The past three years have allowed me to see where exactly I need to work on this next year, and we know how to do it now so I think the answer is we will only know if it has changed at the Olympics itself!”