Adam Peaty & Mentor Mel Marshall Top The Bill At 2019 British Swimming Awards

They've climbed mountains together - Mel Marshall and her charge Adam Peaty on high at a different camp earlier in the year - Photo Courtesy: Mel Marshall and Adam Peaty

Adam Peaty and his mentor Mel Marshall topped the billboard as swimmer and coach of the year at the 2019 British Swimming Awards at the Athena in Leicester.

The honour for Marshall extends beyond her work with Peaty: she also steered Luke Greenbank to bronze in the 200m backstroke and as a member of the 4x100m medley relay team – with Peaty, James Guy and Duncan Scott – that claimed the World title over the United States in Gwangju back in July. Oddly, the relay was not singled out for recognition.

Peaty – who dedicated his prizes to Marshall – and Marshall have spent the last five years blazing a pioneering trail, re-casting the status of ‘the slowest stroke’ and re-writing the swim history book with almost every passing hunt for a gold medal.

There was another pioneering prize for Peaty’s pantheon this year: Europe’s top man in water was a leader on dryland, too, using his status to hasten and herald the arrival of the Global Professional Pro-Team era.

On his way to becoming the most decorated breaststroke swimmer in World Championship history (6 crowns between 2015 and 2019) with a record third double triumph over 50 and 100m in Gwangju back in July, Britain’s Peaty championed the athlete voice.

The 24-year-old urged his peers in the elite pool to stand together in the face of threat of suspension from FINA in the international federation’s battle – of wills and legal eagles – with the International Swimming League.

Legal cases are still in play but the swimmers got their wish and the ISL was launched in early October.

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Adam Peaty – Photo Courtesy: SIPA USA

Captain for London Roar, with a distinctive Big Cat emblem that reflects the tattoo of a lion glowering at rivals to his left as they take to their blocks beside him, Peaty is formidable, in swim or tracksuit.

His leadership on land extended the year to vocal and uncompromising support for teammate Duncan Scott when the Scottish Commonwealth 100m freestyle champion matched Aussie Mack Horton’s podium protest over Sun Yang at the World Championships in Gwangju. Peaty urged swimmers not to fear “meaningless” red lines to halt protest by a FINA leadership thinking not of athlete welfare and clean sport but a perceived threat to its status quo.


Adam Peaty, right, and reporters at the dawn of new demands from athletes in swimming – Photo Courtesy: Rob Woodhouse

Said Peaty:

“That’s why athletes need representatives because we’re here to swim and we’re not going to get involved in a [discussion on a] code of conduct. It ain’t gonna change anything. Athletes are always entitled to freedom of speech and when we detect that something is wrong and there’s cheating, then why shouldn’t we have a voice?”

On the right of athletes to protest in the face of the unacceptable, Peaty said it was a form of ‘free speech. I don’t think anyone should get a warning for exercising their right to free speech. Any doping in the sport is a straight no from me.”

On the threat to have federations ban swimmers who raced at ISL events, Peaty told Swimming World: “They [FINA leaders] need to listen to the athletes and hear what they want instead of saying: ‘You need it this way.’ The whole sport needs to change and that’s something I’m very passionate about. I don’t care, ban me if you’ve got to. I’m not bothered because at the end of the day they know they can’t.”

Peaty’s Last Word Is In The Water


Adam Peaty with the award for best swimmer – Photo Courtesy: British Swimming

A champion for athletes on drylands, Peaty roars louder still in the water. In his element, he is at his most impressive, his dominance over 100m outstanding in swimming history. He has set at least one World Record on breaststroke every year since 2014, while his 9 world breaststroke records include 5 over 100m.

A pathfinder, Peaty was first inside 26.5 and 26sec over 50m and first under 58, 57.5 and 57sec over 100m: as fast as Roland Matthes on backstroke – and Johnny Weissmuller on freestyle!

This year, Peaty, who in 2017 became the first man to claim the World 50 and 100m double twice, penned the triple into the history books. Along the way, the world witnessed a phenomenal moment: “Project 56” was delivered with a sledgehammer 56.88. Peaty summed up thus:

“Got the triple double which is a massive thing for me. It’s what I came here to do. The 56 happened so it’s just everything complete really.”

He had emerged from Rio 2016 victory to declare his sub-57sec goal. It took three years: well worth the wait. On World-record count, he has only Americans John Hencken (12, a record 7 of them over 100m, 1972-77) and Chet Jastremski (9, 6 of them over 100m, 1961-64) ahead of him.

If the Olympic 100m breaststroke crown stays on Peaty’s head in Tokyo next July, he will become the first British swimmer ever to retain an Olympic swimming title four years apart since it all began in 1896.

On receiving his award, Peaty said:

“It’s probably one of those moments that I’ll remember for the rest of my life in terms of the minute details. When Duncan dived in we were behind America and Russia, who both have world class swimmers, so for him to come back on that last 25m was extremely exciting. I started jumping up and down with 25m to go and it got closer and closer and then he chewed them up in the last five metres – I’ve never seen anything like it!”

Marshall Law


Mel Marshall, centre, received her award – Photo Courtesy: British Swimming

Mel Marshall has had an influence on Peaty since he was 11 – and from the time he was 14, she was guiding him towards daily habits he would master on his way to his masterpieces of pathfinding breaststroke. More oil Marshall before the year is out.

Her work with Peaty and others has made her a candidate for recognition beyond her sport. Marshall is up for the big prize at the UK Coaching Awards on December 5.

More than three million people ‘coach’ across many diverse realms in the UK: the UK Coaching Awards celebrate and recognise those who contribute every day to enriching the lives of their pupils and others around them.

Melanie Marshall Adam Peaty

Melanie Marshall with her charge Adam Peaty, in 2015 celebrating the first of six World breaststroke titles – Photo Courtesy: Melanie Marshall/Twitter

In 2014 after Peaty’s international breakthrough of Commonwealth and European crowns, Marshall, then at City of derby and now mentor at Loughborough’s National Centre for Swimming, was voted British Swimming’s first woman coach of the year. It would turn out to be the first of four straight victories.

Marshall says she travelled a valuable “learning curve” through a mentoring program run by UK Sport and then in her role supporting the next generation of coaches. She is also a finalist in England’s High Performance Coach of the Year award.

Speaking about her UK Coaching nomination, Marshall said: “It’s a real honour to be nominated for the UK Coaching Awards, but it is recognition of all the hard work which goes behind the scenes from the entire staff team at British Swimming.

“I’ve had the pleasure to work with some of the most talented swimmers of our generation, and it is their commitment to achieving their best which inspires me to coach. I see how our athletes are inspiring young people to take up swimming and being involved in the England Talent Coaching programmes gives me an opportunity to see that first hand – it’s great seeing children get so excited about the sport, have fun and aim high.”

At the awards in Leicester, Marshall thanked the wider support network of staff and practitioners who “make pushing the boundaries of human performance possible”.

In other awards handed out across the aquatic disciplines, the Emerging Swimmer of the Year prize went to Kayla Van Der Merwe, coached by Zoe Baker, a former world-record holder over 50m breaststroke for Britain now guiding Van Der Merwe to World and European Junior medals and British agegroup records.

The Award Winners

  • Adam Peaty, Swimming Athlete of the Year 2019
  • Melanie Marshall, Swimming Coach of the Year 2019
  • Kayla Van der Merwe, Swimming Emerging Athlete of the Year 2019

In other disciplines:

  • Alice Tai, Overall British Swimming Athlete of the Year 2019
  • Jack Laugher, Diving Athlete of the Year 2019
  • Alice Tai, Para-Swimming Athlete of the Year 2019
  • Kate Shortman, Artistic Swimming Athlete of the Year 2019
  • Lily Turner, Water Polo Female Athlete of the Year 2019
  • Charlie Brogan, Water Polo Male Athlete of the Year 2019
  • Adam Smallwood, Diving Coach of the Year 2019
  • Jacquie Marshall, Para- Swimming Coach of the Year 2019
  • Paola Basso, Artistic Swimming Coach of the Year 2019
  • Phil Powell, Water Polo Coach of the Year 2019
  • Anthony Harding, Diving Emerging Athlete of the Year 2019
  • Louis Lawlor, Para-Swimming Emerging Athlete of the Year 2019