Inspire: Adam Peaty
The pursuit of being the strongest, quickest and greatest is at the heart of the Olympic dream, but at what cost? Jenny McNicholas speaks to University of Derby Honorand Adam Peaty, the first British male swimmer in 28 years to achieve gold in the 100m breaststroke at the Olympic Games, despite his childhood fear of water.
Born in Uttoxeter, the 21-year-old Olympic gold medallist has been nurtured by the City of Derby Swimming Club under the management of Head Coach Mel Marshall. Adam was the first Team GB athlete to win gold at this year’s Rio Olympic Games and holds the world record in the 100m breaststroke at 57.13 seconds, four tenths of a second better than his previous record. And if that wasn’t enough, he also scooped a silver medal as part of the men’s 4x100m medley relay.
But success doesn’t come easy, and Adam has had to forfeit a lot to be where he is now. “I have had to sacrifice socialising over the years, I couldn’t just go to meet my friends in the pub or have nights out, but at the same time, I didn’t want to either as I knew it would compromise my performance. These sacrifices make it all worthwhile when you stand on the podium, singing the national anthem, draped in the Union Jack.”
And it's not just Adam who's had to make sacrifices: “My friends and family have done a great deal to support me. My family, in particular, from a young age made sure I was going to training; they sacrificed time and money to help me get to where I am today, but
together, as a family, we got the balance right and pulled it off.”
As well as having to make sacrifices, there is also a financial cost to going for gold: “In the years leading up to the Olympics I was fortunate enough to be supported by UK Sport, but in the early years it was tough without that financial boost as training consumes your life. You can’t work full-time if you want to become an elite athlete.”
When asked how it felt when he realised he was the first British male swimmer to win gold since Adrian Moorhouse in 1988, Adam said: “I had to pinch myself and tell myself it was real. I just couldn’t believe it, it was absolutely amazing. The whole thing has been surreal, but I’m so proud and happy all the hard work has paid off.
“It’s amazing to think that of all the billions of people who’ve been on the planet, I’ve swum faster than any of them. Pushing the boundaries and seeing what’s possible is what motivates me.”
His passion for swimming is a huge contribution to Adam's success but it’s hard work, dedication and support team that has got him to where he is today.
“A lot of sport is a gamble, all you can do is work hard and hope to be the best at it. Deep down I love to graft and train hard, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t be where I am now without my support team. Whether it’s the sports scientists that took my blood or my coach helping me with techniques, I have them to thank for my success.
“Being elite is not like being a normal athlete; you live and breathe sport. There’s no turning back once you realise you’re an elite athlete. You’re a role model for millions of people, which is a huge privilege. That’s what the Olympics is all about, uniting the world with the best athletes and bringing something back that the country will be proud of.
“People always ask me if there was a point when I knew I could win a medal or set a world record, but that was never the objective. The only goal has always been to be the very best I can be.”
And now Adam’s more focused than ever. He’s already back in the water training for the next Olympics in Tokyo in 2020.
In the space of four years Adam has gone from being a British swimmer to an Olympic champion and is now one of the most impressive competitors in the country, in any sport.
Adam received an Honorary Master of the University of Derby in November 2016 in recognition of his achievements in sport.
Writer: Jenny McNicholas
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