Adam Peaty, Arno Kamminga Set for Two-Man Duel in Olympic 100 Breaststroke Final

Jul 25, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Adam Peaty (GBR) during the men's 100m breaststroke semifinals during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Network
Adam Peaty; Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA TODAY Network

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Adam Peaty, Arno Kamminga Set for Two-Man Duel in Olympic 100 Breast Final

The Olympic final in the men’s 100 breaststroke might feel, for stretches Monday morning in Tokyo, like a two-man match race. There will be six swimmers in the water at the Tokyo Aquatic Centre whose goal, as much as getting a medal, will be to disrupt that.

But if, as the times indicate it could, the race devolves into a man-a-mano joust between Adam Peaty and Arno Kamminga for gold, it’ll be between two rivals grateful for the presence of the other.

Both men staked their claims in Sunday’s semifinal. Kamminga won the first semifinal in 58.19, a little slower than the 57.80 he laid down in prelims. Peaty came back and controlled the final semi by more than a second, winning in 57.63.

The two sub-58 Europeans will undoubtedly be the class of the final. And their styles could push each other to even faster times.

Jul 24, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Arno Kamminga (NED) reacts during the men's 100m breaststroke during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Network

Arno Kamminga; Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA TODAY Network

“I like racing next to him because he pushes me more in the first 50, which is always my bad part of the 100,” the Dutchman Kamminga said. “The second 50 is better. And it’s nice racing next to him because he drags me along the first 50, and then the real race starts.”

“I love to race,” Peaty said. “I’m a scrapper. I know when it comes down to the last 15, I’ve got something that no one else has got. So it’s just seeing how that replicates tomorrow.”

Peaty has the edge in, well, just about every sense. He holds the world record, the only voyager to the subterranean depths beneath 57 seconds. He owns the top 15 times in history. He bested Kamminga at the European Championships in May, winning the 50 and 100 as Kamminga took silver in the 100 and 200. And he’s the reigning Olympic champ.

On Sunday, Peaty was less worried about time and more about survival, as is the mandate of the semifinals. He is adjusting to the oddity of an evening prelim, a morning semi then a 24-hour wait until the final.

“Very strange. But it’s definitely new,” Peaty said. “I’m just adapting to it, I guess. We’ve tried to race as much as we can, trying to put an emphasis on the heats in the morning to replicate a final, but there’s only so much you can do. When you come to Olympics, you’ve got way more waiting, you wait longer for food, wait longer for racing and stuff like that. It’s all about controlling the controllables and enjoying that. But it’s very different.

“It doesn’t feel like Olympics, which is very strange because you come here and you rely on that kind of oomph, but there’s not many people in the crowd because it’s all athletes or coaches or media, which is very different. But I know tomorrow, I’m going to have to make my own story up.”

Kamminga was excited Sunday to reach his first major final, a relatively late bloomer at 25. That was the only goal, and with Peaty in a different heat, he didn’t worry after his British rival.

He’s looking forward to the power boost derived from behind next to Peaty.

“If he’s close to you and you feel you’re catching up, it’s so much extra power compared to being all alone and just feeling the water and how it feels,” he said. “When someone’s next to you and you feel like you’re catching up, it gives you so much more strength than you would imagine.”

There are swimmers with a chance to break the duopoly. Nicolo Martinenghi of Italy tracked Kamminga to go 58.28, a best time by one hundredth of a second for the world junior record holder. Michael Andrew has visited the land of sub-58.5 with a 58.14.

But it will take a time in the 57s, at the least, to win gold, maybe to get on the podium. And there’s only two men proven to consistently provide that.

Peaty was coy about what he might have in the tank for the final. But he’s not shy about expressing his excitement.

“Every day has new challenges, new victories,” Peaty said. “As long as the sun rises and I’m awake, my eyes are open, anything can happen. The finals are the finals, and I’m looking forward to it.”