HomeArticlesRio OlympicsRio 2016 Adam Peaty accepts life is going to be very different

Rio 2016 Adam Peaty accepts life is going to be very different

Adam! Who’s got the dog while you’re away? Are you planning a holiday? Will you take your mum and dad? Was this the best night you’ve ever had? Adam Peaty had an idea that life was about to be very different. “It is going to change a bit,” he said in one of the many press conferences he gave afterhe had won his 100 metres breaststroke gold medal. But he did not know exactly how.

As the media closed in around him, eager to learn every last detail about his life, he must have been beginning to get an inkling. Who is your girlfriend and what does she do? How does this all feel for you? Did you always know you could beat the rest? And by the way, how big is your chest? When Adam Peaty was done, his mum, dad and girlfriend took a turn. Does he know how to cook? Who’s his best friend? What does he eat? How much does he spend?

Giddy as Adam Peaty seemed, he was a lot more sober than the British press. Few people are as rapaciously inquisitive as them when they have a new British superstar to write about. Peaty may have won gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and the world championships, but nothing he had experienced could have prepared him for this, let alone his family. His dad, Mark, works at Lidl, and his mum, Caroline, at a nursery. They had never been on a plane until they flew to Rio and, Caroline explained, the experience of walking down the corridor to get on board was only a little less terrifying than the one of watching her boy dive into the water for the 100m final. Now here they were being quizzed by a dozen journalists about how many Twitter followers they have and how competitive they are when they are playing games.

Adam Peaty, we learned, used to throw the board in the air when he lost at Monopoly. He still lives at home because he did not want to make any major changes to his routine before these Olympics. He is planning to buy a house but has not started looking. He has been with his girlfriend for three years but she will not be moving in because she is studying at Loughborough University. She used to be a swimmer herself and now wants to do a Masters in sports psychology.

Adam Peaty is very patriotic, loves to eat pasta and potatoes, is a good cook but never cleans up after himself. He drives a Mercedes. His best friend is in the army so they do not see each other that much. And he is planning to go to the Maldives for his next getaway. And, unlike his mum, he loves grime music.

Adam Peaty says he does not think he will change. “I’ll still be me.” And his mum agrees. “He’ll be fine.” It was his father, Mark, who said in a wise aside, “He doesn’t know what he’s done yet.” Everything has happened so fast for Peaty, it must all be beginning to blur together. He has accomplished so much in the last four years that he struggles to keep track of his own achievements. “When I was 17 or 18, it must have been 18, I went 59.9,” he said at one point, trying to remember the time when he first realised how fast he was. As recently as five years ago he hated swimming in finals so much that he used to feel as if he wanted to throw up before his races. “It’s almost like you want to puke, you think, ‘I just don’t want to do this.’”

Adam Peaty says that the key reason he has improved so much is that he has spent as much time training his mind as he has his body. He learned to imagine that all his doubt “was a boat”, which he could burn. And that very phrase, “burn the boats”, was one of the last things his coach, Mel Marshall, said to him before the final. “I knew exactly what she meant‚” he said.

If you are looking for the key figure in Adam Peaty’s progress, the one person who has steered him through his bewilderingly rapid rise, it is Marshall. His parents say that they “never doubted him” because everything Marshall told them he would do has come true. Soon after Marshall started working with Peaty she said that he was an Olympian in the making. And Caroline clearly remembers Marshall’s prediction that he would become the first man to swim the 100m in under 58 seconds. He was.

Marshall was a great swimmer herself and won a lot of medals. But it was the ones she missed out on which have shaped her career as a coach and Peaty’s as a swimmer. Marshall was ranked No1 in the world in the 200m freestyle at the Athens Olympics in 2004 but did not win a medal at the Games.

“If I look back now, I’d say that was my defining moment as a coach,” Marshall said. “I would never have been able to guide him to this if I had not had that experience myself.” Peaty, she says, has absorbed so much of what she has told him about what went wrong for her, what she wishes she had done differently. If Peaty seems experienced beyond his years, it is because he has learned so much from her.

Oh, yes, and, for those who want to know, Peaty’s mum thinks he is “about a 44 in the chest”. Which seems a little small. Perhaps she lost the run of herself in all the excitement. She would not have been the only one.

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