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Adam Peaty becomes first British swimmer to win gold at consecutive Olympics
First there was Project Rio, next came Project 56 and now we have what is already being described as Project Immortal.
Adam Peaty has not just delivered Great Britain’s first gold medal of the Tokyo Games but, after his triumph five years ago in Brazil, he has now also become the first British swimmer to retain an Olympic title.
Peaty had not lost a 100m breaststroke of any meaning since 2014 and that sequence was never in any serious threat here, with the 26-year-old finally unleashing what he calls the ‘Beast’ to demolish a field of the word’s best swimmers like it was a school gala.
A time of 57.37 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.
It also cements his place not just as the most dominant British sportsperson of this era, but up with the all-time greats of any generation.
Arno Kamminga, who has had the misfortune to emerge during Peaty’s period of dominance, finished second in a time of 58 seconds flat, faster not just than the rest of the field but any other breaststroker in history. And yet, in the context of a swimming sprint, he was demolished.
With the moustache that he has sported all year now discarded, Peaty arrived into the arena with an aura more akin to a heavyweight boxer than a swimmer. He has said he can relate to how Mike Tyson used to feel in his pomp and, emerging last of the eight finalists, he delivered a two armed salute to the sky.
After a tap of his chest, and a quick straighten of his hat, Peaty was off. His start has always been a point of relative weakness and he was marginally behind after 15 metres but had established a clear lead by the 25 metre turn in 26.73 sec, after which it was simply a question of how quickly he would swim and how much he would win by.
Peaty, who is from Uttoxeter, and his coach, Mel Marshall, who he first met aged 14 at the City of Derby Swimming Club, had always thought that this might be the last chance to improve upon a world record (of 56.88 sec).
Having become the first swimmer under 57 seconds in Gwangju two years ago, this winning time was perhaps compromised by the unusually early time of day but does also suggest that his absolute peak may have passed. Peaty, though, has always stressed that winning was all that matters and, with so much expectation on his shoulders, he looked relieved and genuinely emotional at the finish. With his team-mate James Wilby also finishing fifth, Peaty splashed the water and paused for several seconds astride the lane ropes to savour the moment as he looked up to Marshall and the Team GB contingent. Having bowed politely when he left the pool, he then forced the BBC into an early morning apology with his immediate reaction. “It takes an athlete to be the best person on the day and who f------ wants it more," he said.
“It just means the world to me. I felt the pressure but I needed to put myself on edge. I was racing myself. It wasn’t about the time but the race.
“I wanted it more. I knew it was going to take every bit of energy and I’m just so f------ relieved. Apologies for the swearing!”
This victory further improves on a personal medal haul that, as well as his two Olympic golds, includes eight World and 16 European Championship golds. Great Britain have also now won four Olympic gold medals in the 100m breaststroke, with Duncan Goodhew and Adrian Moorhouse previously triumphing over the discipline in 1980 and 1988.
With no 50m breaststroke in the Olympics, Peaty has only two other chances for gold and will also swim in the 4x100m mixed and men’s relays. These events will provide a mouth-watering head to head with the American star Caeleb Dressel, who is expected to be the other dominant men’s swimmer at these Olympic Games.
Peaty had felt that the lack of crowds meant that “it doesn’t feel like the Olympics” and that it was down to the athletes to find their own “oomph” and inspiration. "I know I’m going to have to make my own story,” he said. He has, and it will live among the most told in Team GB’s entire history.
A word for James Wilby who finished 5th
A very commendable performance.
Peaty receives his gold medal
It is around his neck for the second time. No hugging or champagne I'm afraid, but he is allowed to lower his mask and smile for the camera. He looks a picture of satisfaction.
The celebrations matched the performance
Peaty's cleaner post-race reaction
"I haven't felt this good since 2016. It just means the world for me.
"It's not who is the best all year round, it's the person who wants it more.
"Thank you to the nation for being behind me. This victory wasn't mine - it was a great swimming team, my family, my friends."
That was Peaty's fifth best ever time
"I'm just so f------ relieved," says Peaty in his BBC interview. Solemn apologies follow for any children who are watching at 3.24am.
Peaty is a double Olympic champion!
That was a consummate performance and he clocked 57.37 seconds. A guttural cry of 'COME ON' as he realises he has made history.
26.23 second for the first 50 metres
Just shy of his world record pace!
Looks to be a good start from Peaty, quickly into his rhythm.
If Peaty does have a weakness...
It can sometimes be his starts. He admitted to being a bit tense off the block in his heat.
Peaty and Wilby walking to their blocks
For the first time in Tokyo, Peaty and his closest challenger Arno Kamminga will be in adjacent lines in four and five respectively. Potential for mind games?
How hard will Peaty push?
Mark Foster in the BBC studio thinks Peaty will only be concerned with getting the medal around his neck rather than breaking his own world record which is 56.88 seconds.
There are two Brits in the final: James Wilby is also pushing for a medal
Sarah Vasey only fifth in the second women's 100m breaststroke semi-final
But there's good news for the Irish as Mona McSharry qualifies for the final by taking the last spot.
Duncan Scott qualifies for the 200m freestyle final
Jeremy Wilson likes his chances:
Team GB Duncan Scott laying down a serious marker in the 200m freestyle, qualifying fastest for tomorrow morning's final with a time of 1 min 44.60 sec ahead of the American swimmer Kieran Dean and his British team-mate Tom Dean, who qualified fourth fastest.
Jeremy Wilson on Katie Ledecky
Will be all about Adam Peaty from a British perspective this morning but worth also looking at for the American swimmer Katie Ledecky, already a five-time Olympic champion, who will be aiming for the first of another huge haul in Tokyo when she swims in the women's 400m freestyle final shortly after Peaty at 3.20am.
Tom Dean and Duncan Scott about to race now
In the 200m freestyle. Can they provide a welcome hors d'oeuvresbefore the main course later on?
Margaret MacNeil of Canada has won the women's 100m butterfly final
Came from out of the clouds in lane seven to win a dramatic finish. Paced her race perfectly.
Peaty simply in a league of his own
Peaty on the lack of crowds at this Games
"It's very different out there, it doesn't feel like an Olympics, which is very strange because you think you can come here and rely on that 'oomph'.
"But there's not many people in the crowd because they're all athletes, coaches and media, which is very different. But I know in the final I'm going to have to try and make my own story up."
Other names to watch
More from Jeremy Wilson:
As well as Adam Peaty, whose 100m breaststroke final will start at 3.12am UK time, this morning's swimming will also include semi-finals for three serious Team GB medal prospects. Tom Dean and Duncan Scott go in the 200m freestyle at 2.43am and Kathleen Dawson swims in the 100m backstroke semi-final at 3.59am. Cassie Wild will also be racing in the same heat as Dawson and aiming for a place in the final.
No tache for Peaty today
Legendary American swimmer Mark Spitz once fooled his Soviet rivals into thinking his trademark moustache improved aerodynamics in the water, but Peaty has shaved his off. Who knows, that might make all the difference.
Jeremy Wilson's verdict from Japan:
So which Adam Peaty today? He has looked quite controlled so far in the heat and semi-finals. He has talked previously of feeling god-like as he approaches a big final and how he almost steps into another persona before unleashing what he calls the 'Beast' when it matters most. All eyes will also be on the clock, with Peaty now right in his swimming peak and capable of further improving on his 56.88 sec world record. He is already almost a second clear of any other swimmer in history, with the 16 best times in his 100m breaststroke event.
History beckons for Peaty but will records tumble?
Some athletes ascend to a position of such dominance that the question of whether they will win ceases to be asked. Adam Peaty, unbeaten in seven years in the 100m breaststroke, is one such case, with margins of victory and possible world records the focus of attention every time he gets in the pool.
It would take a freak occurrence for Peaty not to make history in Tokyo this morning by becoming the first British swimmer to win gold medals at consecutive Olympic Games. Peaty admitted his qualifying races allowed him to blow off the 'cobwebs' but he was still able to cruise through to the final.
The 26-year-old clocked 57.63 seconds in the semi-final which, while short of his world record 56.88 seconds, was still half a second better than closest challenger Arno Kamminga. To put Peaty's standard of performance in historical context, only one other swimmer has ever dipped below 58 seconds in the 100m breaststroke.
Peaty said: "I knew what I needed to do. It really is about swimming in the semi-final. It's not really about proving anything, putting any little markers down because I know a lot of energy (is needed) in the final.
"Every day has new challenges, new victories. As long as the sun rises and my eyes are open anything can happen. Obviously Olympic finals are Olympic finals but I'm the best racer in the world and I'm looking forward to it.
"I love to race, I'm a scrapper and I know when it comes down to the last 15 I've got something no one else has got. It's just seeing how that replicates in the final."
There was some speculation the swift turnaround between Saturday evening's heats and Sunday morning's finals session may have inhibited all competitors and Peaty admitted he has found it challenging to adjust. However, he will surely leave nothing in the tank tonight. Will 'The Beast' be unleashed?