Adam Peaty interview: Team GB star talks Olympic gold, Birmingham 2022 and Strictly Come Dancing

  • Kobe Tong
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Adam Peaty is a 'take on all challengers' sort of guy.

Just minutes after retaining his Olympic title in the 100-metre breaststroke in Tokyo this summer, the Team GB hero proudly declared that nobody could have beaten him on the biggest occasion of all.

There is a real feeling that no matter how Peaty's rivals might perform in the pool throughout the season that they've never truly tested themselves until they've gone head-to-head with 'The Beast'.

A golden summer for Peaty

In the end, the events of Tokyo 2020 proved exactly that with Peaty overcoming the challenges of a morning final to become the first British swimmer to ever win the same Olympic title twice in a row.

Now, the 26-year-old has his eyes set on an altogether different year of pushing himself to the limits both by competing at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and trying his hand at Strictly Come Dancing.

But before the golden summer of Tokyo disappears from the public's rearview mirrors, we caught up with Peaty to discuss his Olympic triumph and the new challenges that await him in the coming months.

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Which city will the Olympics be held in this year?

Q&A with Adam Peaty

From his pre-race playlist to the tougher moments of lockdown and everything in between, you can check out how GIVEMESPORT's conversation with the Team GB legend played out down below:

So, Adam, the Commonwealth Games are coming to Birmingham next summer. How excited are you to be competing on home soil?

Very excited. You couldn't get any closer to home for me: 40 minutes from Birmingham. I grew up in a little town called Uttoxeter. I obviously want to feel the passion from the locals and Birmingham are doing an amazing job of hosting the games.

Do you feel as though competing in front of a home crowd makes a difference to your athletic performance?

Yeh, definitely, especially when the home crowd has passion. Of course it does because it adds to the story and it adds to the motivation. You want to do it more for the people who are watching you. There's definitely an aid there.

You've obviously got the science part to the thinking and how the brain works, but for me, simply, you want to do your best for the people who have supported you through every part of your career.

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Of course, you proved in Tokyo that you can thrive even without a crowd in attendance. How do you reflect on your golden summer?

I came away from Tokyo with more than I expected. I didn't expect to get the gold in the 4x100-metre mixed relay. It was nice to come away with that and nice to come away with a world record in that, too.

We came away with a lot and I'm obviously so grateful for the opportunity, especially post-pandemic. It's actually happened now. We're back home already and the world is going on, isn't it?

It's just the way it is, isn't it? You don't really get time to reflect until you slow down, but I don't think I'll slow down for a while yet. It's all go, go, go. Very busy.

How great was it to see the mixed relay join the Olympic roster and to compete with some fantastic female athletes?

It's an incredible race actually. It's one of my favourite races now because you never know where it's going to go, but you have to give your absolute best individual effort - if not more - just to make sure that they don't get caught on that last 15 metres.

So, it's a very exciting race. We're the world-record holders in that now and I'm very, very grateful that we've got such a strong and developed British swimming team. 

We're obviously ready for next season, which is going to be World Championships, European Championships and then finally ending it all at the Commonwealth Games.

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Was it difficult to keep motivation high during the unique circumstances and restrictions in Tokyo?

Yeh, of course, it was a very different year. The environment was just very different and very low energy. You normally go to training camps to keep it fresh and training camps are a huge part of what we do and how we train.

But also, there was little competition and little competition abroad. We did our best with what we could, but there's only a certain amount of PCR tests we can do in a single week without losing the fun out of the sport.

There were a lot of protocols in Tokyo and a lot of protocols beforehand. We had to be so careful. We couldn't do what we usually do, like go out to eat or go out to shop and do the things we love, because there was just too much risk.

Now we're back home, it's a bit more relaxed, but it definitely made the journey to Olympic gold a little bit harder.

How did you find keeping the momentum going through all the lockdowns?

Very, very tough. But I mean, that's part and parcel of being an athlete. It's not about how you react, it's how you respond to certain scenarios. No matter what is thrown at you in terms of competition, time, races... you've got to respond.

For me, it was just about trying to respond as best as I could. I knew that the next year was going to be extremely hard by adding a year on to the Olympic cycle, but now look at us: we're three years away from Paris. We're just trying to do our best and prepare as best as we can.

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I remember you saying that you didn't feel yourself ahead of the Olympic final. How do you wrestle your motivation back up when you have dips and doubts?

I think, for me as an athlete, my level never goes below a certain level, so even on a bad day you can still perform and if that level is so high that you can hold yourself to that standard that you will still win on a bad day then you're one of the best athletes in the world.

But you have to work for that. I say it very easily, but it takes 12 to 15 years to build an attitude and build a repertoire to be able to perform like that. I reap what I sow.

But at the same time, every single day I've still got to learn and I've got to push on. Even though I might be triple Olympic champion, I've still got to go back to the drawing board and go: 'well, how can I get better and how can I push that even further?'

You have such a British bulldog and warrior-like spirit. Do you ever think that you take a dent out of your competitors before you even hit the water?

You'd have to ask them! Sport is about mind games and intimidation, but it's also about the best human performance that you can pull on the day. 

It doesn't matter what you're doing around the world. It doesn't matter what you do in front of your home crowd. It doesn't matter what you do in February. It's about what you do on the day at the Games whether it's Commonwealth Games, Europeans, Worlds or Olympics.

It's what you can do on the day at that event and I've proven time and time again that I can do that.

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Just how important is it for an athlete to look after their mental wellbeing within elite sport?

Hugely. For me, it's all about emotion and the manipulation of emotion to get a performance, but also understanding that your emotion is only finite. It takes energy to have emotions.

But also, when we don't have energy and we do have low emotions, we are in a state that's very hard to be in and that's when you have to have that conversation with yourself and potentially have those conversations with other people as well. So, that's where it gets difficult.

For me, I can do my best at trying to tell other people that you're an athlete and people might see you as an indestructible person who always wins and always lives their life to the fullest, but you also have many down days and journeys along the way which are difficult.

Have you found that swimming and sport have been a particularly good way to channel emotions like anger and aggression in particular?

It's a very interesting point. Anger is one of those huge emotions which can take a lot from you because it's such a high emotional state and you can't stay in that state for too long because it consumes you.

But you can also use little snippets of it. Those little bursts of anger. So, for me, I'd imagine somebody beating me or I'd imagine someone being aggressive towards me or in the call room trying to use anger as a manipulator for adrenaline.

Anger is a raw emotion, right? You feel it, but if you let it go and you let it run haywire in your mind then all these other emotions come in there again and as soon as you lose control of that, it costs you too much.

So, having control over the anger is very important and making sure that it's in check, but also that I'm using that to send me 100 metres as fast as I can.

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I don't know if you watched Last Dance, but it's that sort of Michael Jordan mentality of interpreting things a certain way to turn them into motivation...

Life is about how we interpret things and sometimes we can make up stuff in our head to have that interpretation the way we want to see it.

I do exactly the same. I imagine that people are saying stuff about me behind my back or they think they're going to beat me in their head. Even if it's not real, it's real in my head and if you can think of it like that then I'm getting the best out of myself.

Are there any particular athletes or role models away from the pool that really inspire you?

Yes, of course, so many people inspire me, but for me, I don't know... it's a weird one for me because I always see sport as such a huge part of my life, but I don't really get certain people that inspire me as such. 

I rely on music. Music can bring me up and it can also bring me down and that's what's good about it.

What sort of music do you listen to?

Grime, hip-hop, classical, dance... literally anything, anything. I love it. I absolutely love everything.

Have you got a go-to playlist before races?

Of course I have!

Is there one particular tune that's always on the playlist?

Trenches by Tiny Boost. That's good. It's a very aggressive song.

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Now, Adam, inspiring the next generation will be so huge in Birmingham. How have you found being a father yourself in the world of sport?

It's very, very different. It's difficult in terms of training and energy, but also in terms of managing time. We always think of time as one of our biggest currencies - trying to juggling it - so just trying to manage everything around having a kid and being an Olympic champion as well is very difficult.

But if anyone can do it, I can do it, so I'll keep doing it!

What are your plans for the next year: how will you balance Strictly and preparing for 2022?

Yes, I've got Strictly obviously and I'll be trying to swim around that and compete around that, but I'm trying to peak in July and August next year for the Commonwealth Games and enjoy that home crowd!

Bring on 2022...

Peaty will be hoping to make a splash both in the ballroom and Birmingham over the next 12 months and given his unrivalled dedication to improvement and excellence, you certainly wouldn't put it past him.

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Besides, what truly makes Peaty stand out amongst the riches of British sport is his remarkable ability to sustain consistent, indefatigable brilliance in an event defined by its electric, explosive brevity.

Perhaps the light that burns twice as bright doesn't just burn for half as long, after all.

“The main ticket ballot for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games is now open. Apply for tickets now at Birmingham2022.com. The ballot closes at 8pm on 30 September.”

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