Adam Peaty: ‘You have to be better than everyone else, there’s no sugar-coating it’ | Adam Peaty

World champion swimmer Adam Peaty, the unbeaten world document holder of the 50m and 100m breaststroke, is pleasant and engaged, however he makes no bones about being hypercompetitive. He as soon as mentioned that he felt like a “god” within the pool. He says now, “You have to be better than everyone else, there’s no sugar-coating it.”

A swimming phenomenon (consider him as a sort of nationwide Aquaman), Peaty has had a stellar 12 months, even by his requirements: he gained two golds and a silver in Crew GB within the Tokyo Olympics; he additionally signed up for Strictly Come Dancing, the place he was partnered with Katya Jones. After seven hip-swivelling weeks, he went out on a jive that positioned him backside of the Strictly leaderboard; his mom was so upset, she thought it was a repair. Was it humbling to study a brand new self-discipline? Peaty provides a sort of groaning giggle: “It did humble me. I’m not used to getting final place, to be trustworthy.”

Humbling moments on the dancefloor apart, Peaty says continuously successful within the pool can grow to be an issue. “I dream of dropping, actually. You may’t match the starvation, adrenaline, fight-back, that dropping provides you. It will probably make you much more profitable. You can not be afraid to lose.”

For Peaty, 26, the Tokyo Olympics allowed Crew GB to shine: “For all of the laborious occasions we’ve gone via over the previous 18 months, we confirmed we will nonetheless carry out on the highest degree. Clearly, the Olympics is a really, very particular occasion.”

Leaping into Olympic swimming pools, or dancing on Strictly, it’s clear he has an intimidating, muscular, alpha physique. Does he really feel macho? He laughs: “I assume so. My job is to appear to be that. I’m an enormous man. I have a number of muscle. That clearly helps me go quicker and quicker within the pool as effectively.” Competing in Tokyo meant travelling, one thing Peaty enjoys: “I really like experiencing totally different meals, totally different environments, totally different individuals and cultures. That’s one the very best issues about sport, you get to journey the world.”

Peaty comes from a working-class background in Uttoxeter, and his current e-book, The Gladiator Mindset, lays out his conviction that anybody can fulfil their potential: “I’m actually only a regular one that skilled actually laborious and labored my arse off each single day.”

For all of the giggles and spangles, the Strictly regime is gruelling – a veritable showbiz Olympics – sportspeople often do it as soon as they’ve retired. “It was nearly like a boot camp,” says Peaty. He considers Jones to be as a lot an athlete as he’s: “It’s unbelievably laborious. Typically I used to be like, wow, my mind is completely fried.” Then there was the media focus: on him, his household, his associate, Eirianedd Munro, with whom he has a one-year-old son, George. Peaty is philosophical (“It’s what it’s”), however it was intense: “I’m not used to being within the headlines on a Sunday morning. For a dance! A few of the articles ruined the expertise slightly bit for me. They clearly made Eiri really feel dangerous, which made me really feel dangerous.”

Peaty with Katya Jones on Strictly Come Dancing.
Peaty with Katya Jones on Strictly Come Dancing. {Photograph}: Man Levy/BBC

For Peaty, Strictly was an opportunity to get away from the pool, combine issues up, bolster his longevity as an athlete. Keep away from burnout? “Precisely. Avoiding precise burnout and avoiding a situation the place you begin to hate what you do each single day.” He isn’t tunnel-visioned about sport. “I get pleasure from my life-style and my life as a lot as my coaching. It’s an excellent steadiness to have… particularly as I’m getting older.” Adam, I say, you’re 26! He laughs drily: “I’m 26 and I really feel like 40.”

Munro is part-Nigerian, part-Welsh, which illuminated race points for Peaty: “It provides you extra readability. It will probably be a horrible world on the market.” He’s additionally aware of sexism, particularly as he has a feminine coach, one-time British swimmer Mel Marshall: “Has she received the popularity of a male coach who’s achieved the identical issues?” This 12 months, Strictly featured a same-sex male couple (John Whaite and Johannes Radebe), and Peaty is equally scathing about anti-LGBTQ prejudice. “Homophobia? It’s ridiculous that we’re within the twenty first century and we’re nonetheless having these conversations.”

“Nobody’s born with hate,” he says passionately. “In case you take a look at two little youngsters, they’ll play collectively and present love.” He thinks the reply might lie in schooling and upbringing: “The conversations we have with our kids. That’s why I like being a father, as a result of I can be a voice on that.” What else does he get pleasure from about fatherhood? “I actually love the little issues – going to the cafe, park, selecting him up from nursery. I would like to give him my knowledge, my world. I really like being a dad, it’s unbelievable.” For all Peaty’s achievements in 2021, he additionally discovered a lesson: “Strictly confirmed me that competitors doesn’t all the time have to be severe – that I can simply calm down and revel in it.”

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