Adam Peaty Seeking to Reassert Breaststroke Dominance in Doha

Adam Peaty -- Photo Courtesy: Aaron Okayama/Speedo

Adam Peaty Seeking to Reassert Breaststroke Dominance in Doha

At the last two editions of the World Championships, the absence of British great Adam Peaty hovered over his sprint events. Yes, there would be winners — Nicolo Martinenghi and Nic Fink in 2022, Qin Haiyang in 2023 — but an implied asterisk stood next to those results, as if the swimming world could universally acknowledge the races would likely have developed differently with Peaty in lane four.

But it’s been more than two-and-a-half years, since the Tokyo Olympics, since the 29-year-old has been at peak form. Peaty won his second consecutive 100 breast gold in 2021, defeating silver medalist Arno Kamminga by just over six tenths, a relatively tight margin by Peaty’s standards. Following the Games, he took a well-deserved hiatus, but a foot injury would knock him out of the 2022 World Championships. Two months later, he raced at the Commonwealth Games but was unable to muster his usual form, ending up fourth in the 100 breast final while swimming some three seconds above his world record.

And in 2023, Peaty withdrew from Great Britain’s World Championships selection meet as he worked through his mental health. That meant he missed the Fukuoka meet where Qin became the world’s leading performer in the stroke, moving to No. 2 all-time in the 50 and 100-meter races while smashing the world record in the 200 breast. When Peaty and Qin did race this fall on the World Cup circuit, the Chinese swimmer emerged victorious.

Adam Peaty sheffield

Adam Peaty — Photo Courtesy: British Swimming

Now, with another edition of the World Championships dawning, Qin is absent as he continues his Olympic Games preparation while Peaty is back, but a battle awaits in both of his signature events. That’s because Kamminga, Martinenghi and Fink, who finished in a three-way tie for 100 breast silver behind Qin at the 2023 Worlds, will all be racing, as will Fukuoka fifth-place finisher Lucas Matzerath, a German who broke 59 for the first time in 2023. Peaty’s seed time of 59.25 ranks him seventh on the entry list. Similar story in the 50 breast, where Peaty is tied for fifth on the entry list at 26.79.

How unusual is it to see Peaty so low? Well, he has never lost a race at a global-level long course competition. Never. He made his World Championships debut at the Kazan World Championships in 2015, and he swept the 50 and 100 breast at that meet plus in 2017 and 2019.

Peaty has accomplished mind-boggling feats in the breaststroke events: becoming the first man under 58 in the 100 (Qin and Kamminga have since joined him in the 57 club) and then the first man under 57, pulling off the feat at the 2019 World Championships. He was the first to break 26 in the 50 breast, achieving the mark of 25.95 in a semifinal swim at the 2017 Worlds when he emerged behind the field off the pullout and proceeded to mow down some of the world’s strongest men.

Next week in Doha, we’ll get a sense of how close Peaty can come to that sort of dominance or if he can continue his unlikely winning streak. That said, these World Championships are a tune-up, not the end goal. His main target remains in July at the Paris Olympics, when Peaty will try to accomplish a feat only one man and four swimmers total have ever notched: the three-peat.

Michael Phelps did it in the 200 IM (four times) and 100 butterfly. Women’s three-time winners include Australia’s Dawn Fraser (100 freestyle), Hungary’s Krisztina Egerszegi (200 backstroke) and the United States’ Katie Ledecky (800 freestyle). Peaty is gearing up to achieve something that even the great Kosuke Kitajima could not. We have a sense of what Qin and the other top breaststrokers have in store for Paris, but Peaty has quickly become the wildcard.

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Steve West
16 days ago

That will be awesome to see him swim again!

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