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I’m very peaceful – Adam Peaty ready for Paris after overcoming issues

Adam Peaty is an eight-time world champion and 16-time European champion (David Davies/PA)
Adam Peaty is an eight-time world champion and 16-time European champion (David Davies/PA)

Adam Peaty will head into Paris 2024 at peace with himself after a battle with his demons and the three-time Olympic champion believes that makes him a more dangerous opponent for his rivals.

Peaty has faced huge challenges since winning double gold and a silver at the Tokyo Games in 2021, and last year he climbed out of the pool to deal with mental health issues and alcohol abuse.

Having dominated the sport for so long – unbeaten in his signature 100m breaststroke between 2014 and 2022 – Peaty needed a reset and he has now returned with a different frame of mind.

“I guess (I’m) more relaxed in my approach,” the 29-year-old said.

“A little bit more knowledgeable of myself and I guess when I look myself in the mirror I’m very peaceful. As soon as you stop running from yourself, I think that’s when you start living your true self and your true life.

“And in sport terms I think that’s when you’re most dangerous for everyone else because you’re just so at peace. I’m not afraid to lose, I’m not afraid to win. How can you beat an athlete like that?”

Peaty is an eight-time world champion and 16-time European champion, while having broken world records 14 times. But he discovered the mindset he used to fuel his achievements was unsustainable.

Now he must find a balance between forging a competitive edge, and remaining happy within himself.

“When you achieve what I have in the sport, Olympic golds and world records, that comes at a cost,” Peaty said. “We all know that sport is extremely demanding.

“I started in a place where I had to take a break from the sport, a break from life really because it’s so demanding. Now I’m looking forward to Paris in a place where I put a really good qualifying time down, with a few months still to improve from that point.

“It’s been an enjoyable journey. I think balance, you’ve always got to have enjoyment. I’m definitely enjoying it even though its extremely tiring what we’re trying to do at the moment. But it’s good.”

Asked if he could summarise the balance, Peaty said with a laugh: “Peaceful down the first 50 (metres), anger on the last 50.”

But getting back up to speed is an ongoing process. Peaty qualified for Paris by finishing first in the 100m breaststroke at the British Championships in April, but his winning time of 57.94 seconds was more than a second off the world record he set in 2019.

The challenge of getting back to the top is one that Peaty has enjoyed.

Adam Peaty, wearing a face mask, holds up his Olympic gold medal on the podium in Tokyo
Adam Peaty has won two Olympic gold medals (Adam Davy/PA)

“I like chasing,” he said. “From 2019 when I went 56.8 and was nearly two seconds ahead of the field, your mind would go into a place of ‘What am I chasing here? How do I keep going and keep myself motivated?’

“Going into these Games and especially these last 12 months I’ve enjoyed being the person with the bow and arrow and not the one being fired at. Because it gives you a different approach to it. There’s no pressure really on me.

“I haven’t really won anything since 2022 or 2021. But I’m OK with that because I’ve been the underdog and I enjoy being an underdog, I enjoy fighting my way through the rounds.

“What I’m grateful for is, it’s shown me how to lose with grace. Because before I used to lose and I’d tear everything up. I’ve been like that since a kid. But now at 29 years old I think I can say I have learned how to lose.

“It does suck, because I know how much I invest in myself and how much I train. You’ve got to lose sometimes to get those wins.”