Adam Peaty MBE

Adam Peaty receiving his honorary award, HonMUniv, November 2016
Credit: Ede & Ravenscroft


Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, honoured guests and graduands, it gives me great pleasure to be presenting today, Adam Peaty (Olympic Gold and Silver Medalist), for the award of Honorary Master of the University.

Adam made history at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games when he became the first British man to win an Olympic swimming Gold medal for 28 years since Adrian Moorhouse in Seoul in 1988. It was also Team GB’s first gold medal of the Games.

He went on to win a team Silver medal on the final night of competition in Rio, which was British Swimming’s best ever Olympics since 1908.

Adam was born in 1994 and grew up in Uttoxeter. Ironically as a very young child, he was terrified of water. He hated the pool and used to climb up his mum’s arms whenever they went swimming.

However fear eventually turned into a passion for swimming, and a school swimming gala led to him joining Dove Valley Swimming Club at the age of 10, and then at 14, he trialled for the City of Derby. His Freestyle was a disaster, but his Breaststroke got him noticed.

At 15, Adam decided he wanted to devote himself to swimming. Fifth place in the 200m Breaststroke at the 2012 European Junior Championships in Antwerp was followed a year later by the British trials for the World Championships where he narrowly missed out on a spot for Barcelona. A few weeks later he broke under the minute mark for the 100m breaststroke for the first time at the ASA National Youth Championships.

Missing out on world titles in Barcelona only spurred him on and he made his senior international debut at the European Short-Course Championships in Denmark in December 2013. This was followed by Gold in the 50m breaststroke and Silver in the 100m and 200m at the British Championships in April 2014.

A few months later, aged 19, Adam was the breakthrough star at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. After winning gold for England in the 100m breaststroke, he won Silver in the 50m and added another Gold medal with victory in the Medley Relay.

Following Glasgow, Adam arrived in Berlin for the 2014 European Championships and swept all before him. His haul of four Gold medals- a driving force behind Team GB’s best European performance in history.

Following a stellar 2014 and solid winter training, Adam continued his phenomenal form with a dominant performance at the British Championships in London in April 2015. Having won Gold in the 200m Breaststroke on the opening night and qualified for the Kazan World Championships, Adam went on to become the first man to go under 58 seconds for the 100m Breaststroke, setting a new World Record of 57.92s.

Adam continued to dominate and at the 2015 World Championships in August, he became the first British swimmer to win three Gold medals at a single event, and the first man in World Championship history to clinch the 50m and 100m Breaststroke double.

On his way to victory in the 50m, Adam set a new World Record of 26.42s. He followed this up with another Gold and World Record as part of the 4x100m Mixed Medley Relay squad.

At the 2016 European Championships in London, Adam successfully defended his titles to win four more Gold medals.

Three months later at the Olympic Games in Rio, Adam made history when he became Olympic champion in the 100m Breaststroke, winning GB’s first medal of Rio 2016 and smashing his own world record in the process with a time of 57.13 seconds.

On the final night of competition in Rio, Adam raced to a Silver medal in the 4x100m Medley Relay – with the fastest breaststroke split in the history of 56.59s – making this the best ever Olympics for British Swimming since 1908.

Adam currently holds 19 of the top 20 fastest times ever in the 50m breaststroke and is the current Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth Champion. Adam’s impressive tally of World Championship gold medals is now eight, having defended his 50m and 100m breaststroke double in Gwangju in 2019, breaking his own world record in the 100m by setting a time of 56.88 and in doing so becoming the first-ever swimmer sub 57 seconds. Adam went one step further at the International Swimming League in 2020 setting a new World Record in the 100m Breaststroke with a time of 55:49 and a week later an even quicker time of 55:41.

Adam has achieved yet again, winning Great Britain’s first gold medal of the Tokyo Olympics 2020 in the 100m breaststroke in a time of 57.37. This was marginally outside the Olympic record he set in Rio, but still the fifth fastest in history and clear of the rest of the field by well over half a second and becoming the first British swimmer to defend an Olympic title.

As a University with many sports programmes Adam is a great role model for our students and graduates.

Chancellor, in recognition of his sporting achievements we are delighted to award Adam Peaty the honorary degree of Master of the University.

[November 2016]

[Updated July 2021]