Goal-Oriented Crew Has Led Transformation of Expectations For British Swimming

adam peaty, tokyo olympics, mixed 400 medley relay, mixed medley relay
Photo Courtesy: Robert Hanashiro/USA Today Sports

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Goal-Oriented Crew Has Led Transformation of Expectations For British Swimming

When the British men’s 4×100 medley relay won silver in the final event of the pool program at the Olympic Games, it ensured Team GB left Tokyo with a record Olympic haul of eight medals and third in the medal table.

There were four golds, three silvers and one bronze. One world record. A one-two. And Duncan Scott became the most decorated British Olympian in any sport at a single Games with four medals.

However, the air hung heavy with the word “disappointed” and that after a European record of 3:27.51 as the United States won in a world record 3:26.78.

Adam Peaty said: “I’m a little disappointed with that because we set our expectations so high, the culture within British Swimming is (all about) striving.”

Luke Greenbank – who led off the quartet – mused with a smile: “I can’t believe I’m saying this but we were a little bit disappointed with an Olympic silver medal which sounds ridiculous but it just shows how much faith we have in this team and I think we’re going to come back stronger.”

James Guy too. “Getting this silver did hurt quite a bit – we did want the gold  – but I think that hunger is still there now for three years’ time in Paris.”

Peaty’s comments explain perfectly the attitude that runs through the team.

Where once some would be happy to have booked their slot on the squad, now it is all about the podium and a constant quest for improvement.

GB Roll-Call


Tom Dean (200 free)

Adam Peaty (100 breaststroke)

Men’s 4×200 freestyle (Dean, Guy, Richards, Scott)

Mixed 4×100 medley relay (Dawson, Peaty, Guy, Hopkin/Anderson)


Duncan Scott (200 free & 200IM)

Men’s 4×100 medley relay (Greenbank, Peaty/Wilby, Guy, Scott)


Luke Greenbank (200 backstroke)

It exceeded their haul of six at Rio 2016 although there Jazz Carlin and Siobhan O’Connor won three silver medals between them.

In Tokyo, there were no individual medals for women with Abbie Wood the closest to the podium with fourth in the 200IM, locked out by 0.11.

The women’s 4×100 free squad was fifth with Molly Renshaw and Kathleen Dawson sixth in the 200 breaststroke and 100 backstroke respectively.

Anna Hopkin though broke the British 100 free record, lowering Fran Halsall‘s 2009 mark to 52.75 and was seventh in the final, thriving under the expertise of Mel Marshall at the Loughborough National Centre.

Alongside Hopkin in those Loughborough waters are Peaty and Greenbank while Dave McNulty continued his fine Olympic record at the Bath National Centre.

Dean – who led home Scott in the 200 free one-two – and Guy are training partners under McNulty with Calum Jarvis and Freya Anderson also receiving medals after swimming heats in their respective medal-winning relays.

Scott – who won a gold and three silvers – is coached by Steven Tigg at Stirling.

It’s a far cry from the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona when the team came away with one medal courtesy of Halsall in the 50 free.

It’s untrue though to say the landscape into which head coach Bill Furniss and national performance director Chris Spice walked was barren.

Guy made his senior debut with fifth in the 400 free in Barcelona with the team also featuring Tokyo swimmers Ben Proud, Ross Murdoch and Aimee Willmott.

O’Connor and Carlin also competed as did 2012 silver medallist Michael Jamieson and Chris Walker-Hebborn, who led off the medley relay to world titles and 2016 Olympic silver – all four at some point under the tutelage of McNulty.

Renshaw had already made her GB debut at the 2011 World Championships while Hannah Miley had competed in two Olympics by that point with British stalwart Georgia Davies also in the Catalan city.

It is fair to say though that the mentality has changed. The selection policies ensure it’s tough to get on to the team and once there the hard work is just starting.

Eight years ago on 31 July 2013, Peaty went inside a minute for the 100 breaststroke for the first time after narrowly missing the team for Tokyo.

Twelve months on and he won his first senior international title at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

“It has been a colossal journey,” he said. “I have broken a world record every single year since (my debut).

“It just shows the amount of time, the amount of races, the amount of investment you’ve got to put into the sport. It doesn’t come easy.”
That winning mentality that saw him become the first British swimmer to retain an Olympic title came to the fore when talking of the medley relay.
“We knew we could probably get silver with great racing – we did that, we did great races – but we are always aiming for gold so we are not just looking to make finals like we were eight, 10 years ago – we are looking at how we can dominate those finals.
“So we’ll go back to the drawing board – it’s a little bit painful that is – but theres no point in having that pain now, we are going to put it to rest.”

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