Adam Peaty was the invincible man – not anymore.
In eight years, the three-time Olympic champion had never lost a senior breaststroke 100m race, but a broken foot and James Wilby combined to break this unbeaten record.
At the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Peaty revealed himself to the world when he won his favorite event to start a run that has taken him beyond the reach of mere mortals.
But even Peaty is human and Birmingham 2022 was the moment that mortality struck. Fastest for the first 50 yards then it became clear the unthinkable was about to happen as England and Loughborough’s team-mate Wilby chased him and passed him to win a memorable gold medal – Peaty faded so much he was out of the medals entirely at the end and swam a time of 59.86, nearly three full seconds of his world record, to finish fourth.
While it would have been easy to retire from the Commonwealths and maintain his perfect record, Peaty is not that type of athlete.
He said: “I don’t know what went wrong, with 25 to go I had nothing in the tank. Maybe it’s overexposure on the foot, my legs felt good. Sometimes you just have a bad race, I can’t really say what I did wrong. It’s two seconds slower than the Olympics so something went wrong in this cycle, whether it’s the lack of a winter block, that break and something else. It’s about moving forward from here and getting better.
“I chose to fight, I don’t care about the stats or how long you’ve been undefeated. Every time I step into this box, I’m ready to fight and race anyone in the world. I’ve kind of lost that spark, be it with my foot, but I’ll try to find it over the next few months and the next two years.”
That Peaty was beaten by Wilby, who has been overshadowed by his illustrious teammate for so long, will have brought some consolation.
It was a totally deserved moment in the spotlight for Wilby, who would have been close to making it after his difficulties at last year’s Olympics. He went through some dark times after that, but came out the other end and couldn’t hide his excitement at the glory of the Commonwealth in home waters.
He said: “I love racing and racing alongside Peaty is always so much fun. I was able to complete my race as well as possible. We are both great racers, we all know what Adam is capable of, we will both compete again and it will always be exciting. It was great fun.”
As for the future, Peaty will compete again in the 50m breaststroke but admits he has no idea if he will be able to fight for the only major title he has eluded so far.
And he also made it clear that these will be his last Commonwealth Games, the first concrete admission that an end point is in sight for Britain’s greatest swimmer of all time.
He added: “We’re always learning and this is a big moment for me. It’s a part of my career where you decide to move on and keep fighting or whatever. I know these will probably be my last Commonwealth Games.”
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https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/commonwealth-games/2022-adam-peaty-swimming-james-wilby-b2135236.html Adam Peaty suffered his first loss in the 100m breaststroke at the Commonwealth Games since 2014