Who’s the daddy? New parent Adam Peaty targets Olympic history in the pool

You only need revisit that iconic image from Rio 2016, when he celebrated atop a lane rope with arms outstretched like Christ the Reedemer, to remind yourself just how much Adam Peaty has changed.

Back then, the boy who won in Brazil was a fresh-faced 21-year-old with clean-cut looks. Today, the man we will watch in Japan is a rugged 26-year-old with shaved head, moustache and arms covered in ink.

Of the tattoos that have all appeared in the last five years, there is a huge lion and Spartan warrior, plus Greek mythological figures Poseidon, Athena and Achilles. But it is Peaty’s latest body art, the ‘G’ and ‘A’ on his thumbs, which signify the biggest change in his life post-Rio – the arrival of his son George-Anderson. 

A lot has changed since Adam Peaty struck gold in Rio 2016, particularly his appearance

The British breaststroker has never lacked motivation but he admits seeing his baby boy – even just a picture of him on his phone – produces a paternal instinct driving him to even dizzier heights. That is music to the ears of Team GB, less so for the seven swimmers sharing the same pool as him in Tokyo.

‘I’ve got George as my background on my phone,’ explains Peaty, ‘and when I look at that I’m like, “I want to fight someone”. I don’t know why but it gives me a raw instinct that I want to give him the best possible start and the best possible chance in life.

‘That instinct alone is enough to motivate me. As soon as I look at pictures from home, my son or my girlfriend Eiri, I’m like, “OK, I am ready to go now”. It gives me a natural emotion of, “I want to do them proud”.

‘I want to be the best dad that I can possibly be, and that for me right now is showing the world what I can do in performing at the highest level.

‘My actions in sport will live with him because he will be watching it and growing up with it. Going to these Olympics, I want to show that I can perform and be a dad at the same time. It motivates me more than ever.’ 

Peaty became a swimming sensation when he won the 100m gold medal five years ago

Peaty became a swimming sensation when he won the 100m gold medal five years ago

George does not turn one until September but Peaty says he is already showing potential in the pool, joining him in the swim spa he had craned into his back garden during lockdown last year. ‘He was scared the first time, like I was, but he is beginning to love it now,’ Peaty tells Sportsmail with a smile.

He will not have his son by his side in Tokyo, with the family members of athletes banned. Instead, Peaty is looking to bring him back a golden gift.

‘It’s against all your instincts to leave him,’ says Peaty, who cried when he left home last autumn to go to the International Swimming League in Budapest for six weeks. ‘I want to look back in my early fatherhood and say I had time for him and I want to give him the best possible chance.

‘It’s not me being selfish any more just to get an Olympic gold. I have got a purpose outside of my sport now. I am having accomplishments in the pool and then I come home and I’ve got an accomplishment at home.

‘But going to these Games, I know I’m not going to be away for as long. It is the pinnacle of the sport and I will go there with the mindset of trying to do them proud and hopefully come home with what I deserve. I have not come all the way out here for nothing. I’ve not come here to lose.’ 

Peaty admits his baby boy George-Anderson is motivating him to create history in Tokyo

His son doesn't turn one until September but Peaty said he is already showing potential in the pool

Peaty admits his baby boy George-Anderson (pictured left and right) is motivating him to create history in Tokyo and is already showing potential in the pool

It would be the shock of the Games if he did not come home with a gold medal considering his main opponents in the 100 metres breaststroke are himself and the clock. Of all the statistics that underline his dominance, the most striking came in April when Peaty became the owner of the 20 fastest times in the history of the event.

Dutchman Arno Kamminga upset that sequence slightly when he clocked 57.90 seconds earlier this year but that is still a second slower than Peaty’s world record of 56.88 secs – one the Team GB poster boy hopes to beat again in Tokyo.

‘Of course, that’s always the aim,’ he says. ‘But I know that 56.88 is extremely fast so it is going to be a challenge.

‘For me, there is no bigger fuel than the Olympics Games. I know that the bigger the arena, the bigger and better I perform.

‘I never really go into a race saying I want to win. It is always about how fast I swim. It’s a very different mindset to a normal athlete. I have always been about wanting to turn up and dominate.

The British breaststroker has had to leave his family but plans on bringing back a golden gift

 The British breaststroker has had to leave his family but plans on bringing back a golden gift

‘I want to end my career with a marker that no one can get near. That is a personal goal of mine.’ 

So just how fast can Peaty go? He has been pushing the boundaries of breaststroke for six years – becoming the first man to break the 58-second barrier in 2015 and then the only man to go under 57 seconds in 2019.

Peaty says his starts are now ‘miles better’, begging the question, does he think he could ever swim sub-56? ‘I’d never say never,’ is the quietly confident reply.

If Peaty is to go quick in Tokyo, he will have to do so bright and early as the swimming finals are being staged in the mornings. It is a schedule designed to suit American broadcasters, but the Olympic champion reckons it will also work well for him.

‘I’ve always been a good morning swimmer,’ admits Peaty, who is also looking to win medals in the 4x100m men’s and mixed medley relays. ‘I’ve always enjoyed getting up and going for it straight out the deck. I’ve been doing that since I was 14 so I’ve had 12 years of racing in the morning and going for it.

Peaty is favourite to win 100m gold again and has the 20 fastest times in the event's history

Peaty is favourite to win 100m gold again and has the 20 fastest times in the event’s history

‘I don’t know why we teach athletes to go easy in the morning because when you get to the big show, the big dance, it’s not going be easy in the morning, you need to go flat out.’ 

If, as expected, Peaty does make it a Monday morning to remember he will be the first British swimmer to ever defend an Olympic title. He needs no reminder that history beckons.

‘I always talk about legacy and that would be a huge part of my legacy,’ he adds. ‘It would be great to come away with that accolade.

‘I think experience is my biggest attribute and knowing that I can perform anywhere at any time.

‘A lot has changed, like me having a kid. But it’s a great time to be alive. I am looking forward to closing this chapter and having the performance that I have worked for over the last five years.’  

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