Adam Peaty Keeps His Crown As Arno Kamminga Gives Him Closest Euro Title Call In Record 4 Golds & James Wilby Makes It 1-3 GB Roar

2021-05-18 Reading Time: 9 minutes
Adam Peaty - by Georgie Kerr, courtesy of British Swimming

Adam Peaty is still looking forward to having company in sub-58sec Championship waters after a 57.66sec “there and back, simple, not rocket science” scooped him a record fourth European 100m breaststroke title since his international breakthrough in 2014.

Peaty , c coached by Mel Marshall at Loughborough, makes the final approach to the Tokyo Games and the prospect of being the first British swimmer ever to retain an Olympic title undefeated since his 2014 breakthrough. That’s a very rare run at the tip of an iceberg of talent and speed.

Adam Peaty, Arno Kamminga and James Wilby in the medals 0- Photo Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

If any other 100m champion in Budapest this weeks gets to say they won by 0.44sec, the word dominant will surely not be far away, but the power of Peaty is such that Arno Kamminga‘s 58.10 for Dutch silver constitutes a “close call” in the realm of the surreal.

The podium was a Britain 1-3 celebration after Peaty’s Loughborough teammate James Wilby, Worlds silver medallist in 2019 coached by Dave Hemmings, when Kamminga watched form the stands having missed the top 8 in semis, got close to best in 58.58 ahead of Ilya Shymanovich, of Belarus, on 58.75, and Nicolo Martinenghi, on 58.94.

Peaty noted that he’s a shave and a rest shy of being sharp but is looking forward to a faster race altogether in Tokyo:

“That was good, it was a very tactical race. That’s right at the edge of what I can do mid-season, with my moustache! Coming out here, I just wanted to enjoy it. Once I hit taper and am properly shaved, I’ll have a nice bit of preparation into the Olympics and it’ll be a good time. It’s always nice to have something to improve on. Coming into this week, I was already doing hard sessions and then had a bit of rest coming into this. It’s just testament to how powerful my stroke is feeling, so come the Olympics, it’s hopefully going to be a good show. It’s going to be a tough battle in Tokyo. There’s going to be a lot of guys going low 58s or 57 high, and it’s going to be an interesting time for 100m Breaststroke.”

Adam Peaty – by Georgie Kerr, courtesy of British Swimming

Championship waters. Racing. That’s where it’s at and all top 5, each a member of the all-time top 10 club, fell shy of their best, Kamminga confirming the progress he showed in a 57.90 in Eindhoven a couple of weeks back before rest for peak performance. If anyone is wondering if the taper was a touch off, don’t bother: Eindhoven, millpond conditions, no pressure, only one others block in the pool; Budapest, maelstrom of a title chase with the biggest hunter of gold breaststroke has seen since the best days of Kosuke Kitajima, the quadruple Olympic champion from Japan.

In that sense, Kamminga’s 58.1 and Wilby’s 58.5 are both terrific efforts, with the promise of more in the mix, as Peaty anticipates in the quote above. For Kamminga, 26, the moment marked his first international long-course medal: when Peaty clocked his 56.88 in Gwangju semis, Kamminga was in the same race, back on 59.49 in 8th and out of further contention. He’s in it now.

Adam Peaty, by DeepBlueMedia

The clash of the sub-58 club must wait until what Peaty calls his “further attack” (not defence) of the Olympic crown in Tokyo.

Kamminga, coached by Mark Faber at De Dolfijn, joined Peaty in the sub-58 club at the Netherlands Team Time Trials in Eindhoven a couple of weeks back and noted the rest he was now looking forward for a peak performance in Budapest. How close could he get, was the question.

The answer this evening in Budapest was 0.44sec, which compares with winning margins of 0.47sec in 2014, 1.47 in 2016 and 1.54 in 2018 when Peaty set the World record at 57.10 a year out from his 56.88 stunner in Gwangju.

Adam Peaty and the view the rest of the best in world breaststroke have become familiar with – courtesy of Gary McCaffery – Gmcphotography.org

Peaty beat them there and beat the pace of all of them back, barring Wilby:

  • 26.64; 57.66 (31.02) Peaty
  • 27.01; 58.10 (31.09) Kamminga
  • 27.67; 58.58 (30.91) Wilby
  • 26.85; 58.75 (31.90) Shymanovich
  • 26.94; 58.94 (32.00) Martinenghi

The Final:

PL NationSwimmer/DoBR50m Time/2nd 50m GAP  
14  GBRPEATY Adam
(28 DEC 1994) 
 0.6226.64 57.66
31.02
    
23  NEDKAMMINGA Arno
(22 OCT 1995) 
 0.6327.01 58.10
31.09
 0.44  
36  GBRWILBY James
(12 NOV 1993) 
 0.6427.67 58.58
30.91
 0.92  
47  BLRSHYMANOVICH Ilya
(02 AUG 1994) 
 0.6226.85 58.75
31.90
 1.09   
55  ITAMARTINENGHI Nicolo’
(01 AUG 1999) 
 0.6426.94 58.94
32.00
 1.28  
68  LTUSIDLAUSKAS Andrius
(05 JUN 1997) 
 0.6627.70 59.31
31.61
 1.65   
72  ITAPINZUTI Alessandro
(10 MAY 1999) 
 0.7627.79 59.50
31.71
 1.84    
81  TUROEGRETIR Berkay Oemer
(16 FEB 1998) 
 0.6227.87 59.52
31.65
 1.86  

Peaty – 17 Of The Best

The race left Peaty with the 17 best times in history, Kamminga and Shymanovich, with his best of 58.29, the only other two in the top 25.

The answer was also this: at least four of the biggest pretenders to Peaty’s crown got to race the pride of their pride in a long-course pool in peak form for the first time since World Championships in 2019. And they were reminded of the challenge ahead in Tokyo, which requires them to have a vision of what breaststroke speed might look like across the pool two, three, perhaps more Olympic Games ahead.

In Gwangju, Peaty set the world record in 56.88 in the semi-final that saw Kamminga finish seventh in 59.49. 

Peaty took the crown the next day on 57.14 and until Kamminga’s recent effort, had held the best 20 times ever. Now the Dutchman is performer No 2 and after the Budapest final, remains so, the challenge still on for those aspiring to join Peaty in the sub-58sec club in championship waters.

Arno Kamminga’s 57.90 marked the first time anyone else has got within a second of Peaty’s Rio 2016 winning time. The Brit’s 56.88 and membership of the sub-57sec club is another matter but Kamminga of the only approach the hunters can take: “… just keep chipping away at it”.

Peaty told State of Swimming recently as he looked ahead to Tokyo:

“I want to go out there and, you know, do what I do and if I do perform then, yeah, I don’t think many people would get close and it’s really a question of who’s going to go under 58. I think this could be the first Olympics where someone could possibly sneak under 58 (beyond himself) if they have the perfect race on the big occasion. There’s some amazing talent coming through and I welcome that because it pushes me even further and it’s great to see the next generation of swimmers coming through. And that’s what you want in sport. You want a little bit of a push … you never know until the heats are done, then heats into semis and then you’ve got to be on your game for the final.”

Adam Peaty – Rio 2016 Olympic gold in a stunning world-record time – photo by Patrick B. Kraemer/Magic PBK

The context of that interview and Peaty’s description of a sum that adds up to a 56.2-56.3 effort one perfect day, is below. Meanwhile, Kamminga has been on a constant flow of improvement since missing the final of the 100m at 2019 world titles. How season bests: 57.90, 2021; 58.43, 2020; 59.14, 2020; 59.76, 2018. His best two efforts unfolded Friday; his best nine efforts have all been clocked during Covid lockdown, 2020 and 2021.

A three-time European short-course champion, Kamminga took 0.01secs off his Dutch record in 58.42 in morning heats in Eindhoven. The warning given, the 25-year-old coached by Mark Faber at Amsterdam’s National Training Centre was out in 26.99, home in 30.91 to go into waters uncharted by breaststroke specialists until Adam Peaty went that way in 57.92 back in 2015 to bring the slowest stroke up to the speed of Johnny “Tarzan” Weissmuller on the fastest stroke, over 100m freestyle, in the 1920s.

Six long years and Peaty had notched up every title over 100m available to him, including the Olympic crown and taken the speed of breaststroke a relative light year ahead of his rivals, at 56.88, at World Championships in 2019.

Peaty, at the helm of the 2021 World rankings with his 57.37 from Britain’s Olympic trials when unrested, said that it was “inevitable” that others would go below 58. He was “looking forward to it … it’s good to have the competition”. He also noted, however, that 57 was not a zone he had in mind and that as things stood, if all things went as well as they could he might one day get down to a 56.2. That is unlikely to be required for Tokyo gold.

Today in Budapest, at leats four of the biggest pretenders to Peaty’s crown got to race Peaty in a long-course pool in peak form for the first time since World Championships in 2019, when Peaty set the world record in 56.88 in the semi-final that saw Kamminga finish seventh in 59.49. 

Peaty took the crown the next day on 57.14 and until Kamminga’s effort, had held the best 20 times ever. Now the Dutchman is performer No 2 and after the Budapest final, remains so:

Top 5 All-Time Rankings Performers

Peaty is in a unique situation. I put that to the Olympic champion, a man who has a big advantage on his closest rivals, not just on the clock but in racing too, as seven years of dominant 100m peak-performance efforts have shown. How then to approach Tokyo with a gain on others significantly beyond that enjoyed by any other 100m swimmer on any other stroke? Was he thinking about what he’d prepared to do, focus on his own goal? Did he given any thought to the folk either side of him? Most others, if not all, take that with them to the blocks, plus they know the guy in the next lane is 0.1-0.2 away. What is it that he takes to the blocks?

Peaty provides an answer stacked with insight of the kind others can only regard, cannot control, may even envy in terms of the clarity of position and the cutting edge of drive at the heart of it all. He tells State of Swimming:

“I agree, yeah, there’s a certain method to the madness, believe it or not. When I perform, yeah, you’re completely right: I do think about my own performance and think about how I’m gonna get the best process and get the best out of myself but it’s not as simple as I wish it was. For me, I don’t really go out there for myself, not anymore anyway. I go out there for my son, I go out there for my family, I go out there for the people who have supported me, for the team, and most importantly at an Olympics, you go out there for your country.”

Adam Peaty – image courtesy of Georgie Kerr, for British Swimming

On his way to seeking a gold that would make him the first British swimmer ever to retain an Olympic swimming titles, Peaty speaks softly, gently. The hint is the big cat tattoo draped over his shoulder: within, there’s a roar of roars waiting for its day. He purrs:

Adam Peaty

“So, down that last 50, at the Olympic Games, I know I’ve got the whole country on my back and behind me and people would think that is a pressure and people might think ‘I don’t want the pressure’ but I’m like: ‘if you want to be the best in the world you got to take that and welcome it and find a way to perform. Pretty much every interview I’m asked ‘can you deal with the pressure going in and defend the Olympic title’ but I think I’m one of the most chilled out people who could possibly do it.”

Adam Peaty in London today – Photo by Georgie Kerr, courtesy of British Swimming

Peaty beams and adds. “That’s just me. I’m very chilled and I know exactly what process I’ve got to go through, such as trials: I used to get nervous for trials thinking ‘what if I don’t do this or don’t do that’ but I’m now so laid-back and I think having our son just makes me appreciate these moments a little bit more. There’s only more freedom that can come from this now, so I’m excited to race it at the Olympics with the knowledge and the experience and the wisdom that I’ve got and gathered over the last five years.

“It’s the Olympic Games, guys, you know, it’s fun. I think, win or lose, nothing really changes in a sense. I’m just completely free. So, going back to your original question, of course, I’m aware of the competition, but I’m not focusing on them.”

Adam Peaty

Dominance. There’s gold and there’s goal. He hints at process-soaked goal and control being the stuff that delivers the gold that non-one can control. He says: 

“For me there’s two ways: I train like I’m in second but I perform like I’m in first and its a very fine switch. When I train up and down every single day I put myself in a position where I’m training to win but when I’m racing, I’m racing to dominate – and that’s not an arrogant thing … it’s just a mindset that we built up. It’s that certain difference between going out to get gold and get the win by 0.04 from the next guy. There’s a difference between going out there and going ‘I’m going out there to dominate’.”

Adam Peaty – by Georgie Kerr, courtesy of British Swimming

The add is the quote used up top in this feature: “For me, it’s yeah, I want to go out there and, you know, do what I do and if I do perform then, yeah, I don’t think many people would get close and it’s really, you know, who’s going to go on the 58? I think this could be the first Olympics where someone could possibly sneak on the 58 (beyond himself), if they have the perfect race. There’s some amazing talent coming through and I welcome that because it pushes me even further and it’s great to see the next generation of swimmers coming through. And that’s what you want in sport. You want a little bit of a push … you never know until the heats are done, then heats into semis and then you’ve got to be on your game for the final.”

Adam Peaty & The Perfect 100m Breaststroke As A Sum Of All His Swiftest Parts

No swimmer will spell out their goal precisely but some generalities are obvious. In the grander scheme of things, Tokyo or beyond, where did he think he might be able to taken 100m speed?

“We have done the sums. If it went absolutely perfect and all the fastest parts I’ve done in a physical race are put together, then we’ve worked out that’s 56.2 or 56.3, which is absolutely ridiculous. But you never say never: you’ve got to put the marker somewhere. I’m not saying I’m going to go that, before it makes a headline, but I do believe I can get faster than the world record. That was 2019. We’ve had Covid-19 this past year but my preparation is much better and much more focused, much more ‘just hungry for it’. I think having that time off through Covid has given me a bit of a second wind that I’ve needed.”

Adam Peaty – courtesy of arena

A second wind for a man on 56.88. Cue collective shudder in the rudder of the breaststroke chasers with an eye on a vintage that will demand a match of his sporting maturity from any who aspire to be within the danger zone before the decisive crash into pad that delivers a result eternal.

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