Commonwealth Games: Soul-searching after shock loss leaves Adam Peaty with unanswered questions
Questions have been whirling around in Adam Peaty’s head since the seismic shock not just of defeat in the 100metres breaststroke but finishing outside the medals.
Tossing and turning in bed two nights ago and sleeping for just two hours, thoughts circulated through his mind. He asked himself: “You think ‘do I want to be here? Do I love the sport as much as I did?’”
The answer was simply “I don’t know” and these are questions he needs to address in the coming weeks.
Laura Kenny endured a similar mindset at Lee Valley VeloPark in London after finishing 13th in the points race on Sunday, telling her husband Jason she felt the scratch race might be the final contest of her illustrious career.
But a pre-race pep talk to herself in the toilet beforehand and a reassurance that she could do it resulted in her coming out of the track meet with gold yesterday.
Quite how Peaty talks to himself in the bowels of Sandwell Aquatics Centre tonight remains to be seen but there have been a mix of thoughts and emotions since his surprise defeat by James Wilby, his first loss over the distance in eight years.
One minute he talked of only dealing with gold and being a lion being backed into a corner ready to bite, the next he was playing down the importance of a Commonwealth Games taking place in front of his home crowd just 40 miles away from where he grew up.
Following victory in a dead heat in his semi-final of the 50m, he said: “It will probably be my last Commonwealths attempt tomorrow. But I am not bothered because, Commonwealths? For me? In the grand scheme of things, it’s about two years’ time [the Olympics] and that is no disrespect.”
Paris 2024 is clearly the big one on the horizon but it also smacked of kidology both to his rivals and to himself with 50m Commonwealth breaststroke gold the one major title to have eluded him.
He later apologised on social media for the comments, saying: “Sometimes in the heat of the moment my emotions better me. These championships mean a lot to me being a home Games.”
The reality is Peaty has nothing more to prove in a sport where he has long dominated. Team-mate and close friend James Guy took him aside following his previous final loss and said simply: “Mate, don’t let the swimming define you.”
The remark resonated for Peaty, who said: “As sports people, we always think our results define us. And the whole world sees us as results. But you know what? I’ve still done what I’ve done over the last eight years. I’ve still won every single championship, done all the world records.
“That hasn’t been taken away from me. I’ve just had one bad day in the office and we all have bad days in the office don’t we?”
Unconvincingly, Peaty said he was not looking for gold in this final over the shorter distance, just his best possible swim.
He perhaps needs to not overthink. The reality is that 10 weeks ago, he broke his foot, a few weeks ago he was still in a boot and only in the final days leading up to Birmingham was able to dive into the water for the first time in two-and-a-half months. It turns out Peaty on one leg is, unsurprisingly, not invincible.
Amid all the Peaty focus, it slightly passed under the radar that another friend of his in Duncan Scott became the most decorated Commonwealth athlete in Scotland’s history late last night. Scott took bronze in the men’s 100m freestyle and then another bronze in the 4x200m relay for the 11th Commonwealth medal of his career.
Amid a packed schedule, Scott has a rare night off this evening with the prospect of more medals on the final night tomorrow.
“It’s been tough back-to-back physically and mentally and I have tomorrow off to kind of reset,” he said. “I’m feeling better… as I was struggling with the first couple of days I had.”