Hours after a shock fourth-place finish in the men’s 100 metres breaststroke final at the Commonwealth Games, ending an unbeaten eight-year record in his favourite event, Peaty was back in the pool. The 27-year-old was joint fastest in the morning heats of the 50m discipline but a semi-final time of 27.03 seconds was two hundredths of a second slower than Australia’s Sam Williamson in the evening.
Afterwards he told the BBC: “I’m not bothered about it. Commonwealths to me… in the grand scheme of things, it’s about two years’ time [the Paris 2024 Olympics]. That’s no disrespect but I’m still four weeks into my programme [after coming back from the broken foot]. I can’t put too many expectations on myself. It’s only a 50m breaststroke. I’m not going to overthink it.”
However, he later rowed back on those comments and suggested Tuesday night’s 50m breaststroke final will be his last at the Commonwealth Games.
He wrote on Twitter: “It has been an incredibly hard time the past few months but mostly the last few days. Sometimes in the heat of the moment my emotions better me and I can’t speak with a clear mind. These championships mean a lot to me being a home games but I have to think bigger picture to keep my spirits high. It really, really isn’t easy. My last Commonwealth Games race will be tomorrow.”
The triple Olympic champion and world record holder in the 50m and 100m breaststroke questioned his enthusiasm for the sport this week but said: “You back a lion into a corner, they’re going to bite. I’m backed into a corner now but I’m OK with that. It’s just as important in an athlete’s career to have these moments. You think ‘do I want to be here? Do I love the sport as much as I did?’. I don’t know. Those questions, I have to address.
“I haven’t really had a winter block where I’ve reset. I haven’t even had chance to know where I’m going, it’s almost like you get in a car without a destination. I’ve only been in the water for four weeks, I put way too much expectation on myself and now I’m still debriefing and will be over the next three or four weeks. Obviously it was a devastating night for me.”
Peaty expressed some irritation with the waiting time on the dive board after his semi-final, where he was more than a second slower than his personal best of 25.95secs he recorded five years ago.
He said: “It was the same in the 100 metres and the same this morning. They either need to change what they’re doing or change the starter.”
Peaty admitted he had just a couple of hours’ sleep as he struggled to unwind after finishing behind English compatriot James Wilby and Australian pair Zac Stubblety-Cook and Williamson on Sunday. He intends to miss the relay events but Peaty said he was always committed to competing on Monday in a bid to win the only major medal missing from his collection, while he took some comfort from the advice of James Guy, who told his English team-mate “don’t let the swimming define you” after his upset loss.
Peaty said: “That was a bit of a switch. As sportspeople we always think our results define us and the whole world sees us as these results. But I’ve still won every single championships, done all the world records, that hasn’t been taken away from me, I’ve just had one bad day in the office.
“I found that love again (on Monday), but maybe because I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m not looking for gold, I’m just going to look for my best possible swim.”
Peaty has a rough blueprint to get back to the top as he still wants to carry on until at least Paris 2024.
He said: “I almost know what I need to do. I’m carrying way too much body weight, way too much muscle for the 100m, so I need to lose four kilograms. That’s just straight off my mind. But really it comes down to training, you can’t hide from the training and this year I just haven’t had enough of it.”
Wilby also qualified for the final in a time of 27.65s, as did fellow Englishman Greg Buttler in 27.68s, and Scottish pair Craig Benson (27.64) Ross Murdoch (27.69s).