Adam Peaty Back on the Hunt! Olympic Champ Stalking Tokyo From Home

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Adam Peaty Back in The Water - Photo Courtesy: Adam Peaty

Adam Peaty Returns To The Water

Adam Peaty is a big fish on dryland no more. The Olympic 100m breaststroke champion, locked out of his Loughborough haunt in COVID-19 lockdown season, has had a pool flown in to his backyard: the tank was craned in over the roof of his home a few miles from the British University where he would normally be putting in the lengths.

Every afternoon, the World champion and record holder can now be found swimming against the tide of a current made for coronavirus season.

The ‘SwimFit’ pool and flume is about a tenth of the size of the Olympic 50m pool in which Peaty, 24, excels as the pushiest pioneer of pace in the history of 50 and 100 metres breaststroke racing.

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A Pool Arrives – Photo Courtesy: Adam Peaty

Craned into place outside Peaty’s back door, the pool was ready for use by last weekend and granted Peaty membership of a club with seven other Great Britain team swimmers who have a ‘flume’ (pool with current) pool in their gardens, World champions Ben Proud, James Guy and Luke Greenbank, the latter a Loughborough teammate of Peaty’s, among them.

Others have set up paddling pools and tethers and bungee ropes in their gardens to get in a little bit of static swimming but that was hardly an option for 6ft 2′ Peaty, weighing in at 13 and a half stone, the beef behind the 56.88sec world record set on the way to a global title retained for a record second time last summer in Gwangju.

The swim left the best of the rest lagging on the clock by a massive 1.35sec. That’s close to imagining that the last man home in many a big 100m track final won by Usain Bolt equates to the nearest to him in all-time, all races terms.

Among current swimmers, only American distance freestyle ace Katie Ledecky and her 800 and 1500m freestyle world records compete in the league of extraordinary dominance over forces in the pool, prevailing or historic.

Peaty has a home gym that enables him to do “80-85%” of the land work he would normally do but part of his success story comes down to a trend-setting technique in which the timing of pull and kick all but vaporise any trace of the ‘dead zone’ of breaststroke, that moment when propulsive force is at its weakest,  arms and legs on the cusp of respective recovery and next blast. Peaty also has a heightened “feel for water”, a level of connectivity that feels as nailed down as it could be.

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Adam Peaty Back in The Water – Photo Courtesy: Adam Peaty

Born To Swim

When the doors of all pools in Britain were shut five weeks ago, Peaty was forced to confine himself to a home gym in his garage and a daily run that, the swimmer tells Swimming World “isn’t exactly my favourite thing: I’m not built to run”.

Enter Jacuzzi Spa and Bath Ltd, which has loaned Adam Peaty his lockdown pool. It’s about a tenth the size of “Olympic”, at 5m 70 long and 2m 80 wide, the tank taking about 12,000 litres of water., as opposed to 2,500,000 litres.

Now back in the water for a few days, Peaty smiles as he notes in a Zoom chat room that’s become part of his daily link with his coach Mel Marshall and teammates:

“A pool! It was an amazing thing for them to offer me; I put my hand up straight away and accepted it. I’m immensely grateful to Jacuzzi Spa and Bath, to my sponsor Arena and Mel for all this kind of support I get. It’s great to get back in the water, feel the jets rushing at me.”

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Melanie Marshall

Marshall wanted to avoid her swimmers losing “feel for water”, in both a physical and psychological sense. She tells Swimming World:” They’ve all missed the water. They’re swimmers; they’re amphibians; they’re fish. If you leave a fish out of water too long, its scales dry up and it can’t breathe. We needed to get the fish back into the water and avoid having them lose their feel for water.”

Asked to explain “feel for water” Marshall said:

“I guess it’s like a fighter-jet pilot explaining G-Force: only someone who has experienced that will really know.” In terms of common experience, she agreed wholeheartedly with the analogy coach Patrick Miley, dad and mentor to Hannah, the Scottish medley ace, and a helicopter pilot, once described to me:

“As a boy, I used to stick my hand out of the car window when we were speeding along and you learn to feel the rush of air buffeting your hand and you could move your hand to feel the change that switch of angle made to the feeling of speed, lift, resistance. That gives people who don’t swim or have never felt what it means to feel water an idea of what we’re talking about.”

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Photo Courtesy:

“Absolutely,” says Marshall, a British International with a string of honours to her name in the first decade of the century, adding:

“It’s a connection with, a feeling for the water, and we just want to make sure they don’t lose that. That connectivity with the element is really important for the swimmer.”

The mini-pool, with a spa element at the shallow end and a current machine, allows Peaty to swim on the spot but not at full speed. The pool comes with tethers or bands that tie Peaty in place and can be adjusted to take account of the speed at which he’s sprinting.

Untethered, even well shy of top speed, the World 50m and 100m breaststroke record holder and champion, would beat the top current and crash into the end wall in a few strokes.

Peaty has previously worked in professional testing flumes in which the current can be set to world-record pace but the SwimFit pool he has is designed for the keep-fit market not Olympic gold.

Marshall finds nothing to moan about. “We can do loads of things in it,” she noted.

“Kicking, sculling … we can’t do max heart-rate stuff  … but we can do some sprint and ‘threshold’ work and we can do a wide range of things that forms part of our heavy winter season preparation.”

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With a nod to a vast workload of winter work, including an intensive six-week camp in Australia at the start of the year, Marshall explained why the tiny pool is “perfection in an imperfect season” on the way to a delayed Olympic-title defence in Tokyo come July 2021:

“The overarching thing is that we’re all trying to prevent the regression of what we’ve built up. The trajectory we were on and the fitness we’d built up was in a top place. To make sure that’s not taken away altogether, we just needed to get something in his garden that meant he could get back in the water and stop the regression.”

Asked what he thought the flume brought to the mix in this oddest of seasons, Peaty said:

“It makes a big difference to be in water: I can practice my technique just as I can in a big pool and I work on buoyancy and getting high out of water. It’s a great utility to be able to have use of in these strange times. I’m in there for an hour a day seven days a week until we can get back to our pool. I’m just feeling the water and building that base up.

“It’s a bit like back to square one. I’m a firm believer in if you’re going to build a skyscraper you’re going to have to try and reach for the sky. I’ll build something great by Tokyo next year and that starts with working on an amazing foundation of technique and fitness. This pool will allow us to get back to the big pool, come the hour, with a nice base to build from.”

In terms of the team he sees only through a small screen right now, it wasn’t “camaraderie” that he missed but “the pushing together and then when we’re in the gym, as well, we see all the people from other sports and learn from what they’re doing.”

There was more on his list of longings: “I guess just, you know, being outside the house and just being able to push it every single day and coming home and recovering and going again in the evening and stuff. I love routine and the regime of it all and that’s what I thrive off.  So I think, yeah, there’s lots of things that I miss but at the same time, I’m still doing most of these things in the sense.”

More on those “things” with Adam Peaty and Mel Marshall in the near future.

 

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8 comments

  1. Rae Rae

    If only I had some extra cash lying around…..

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