James Wilby Insists Everyone Can Be Beaten Ahead Of Meeting With Adam Peaty At British Trials

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James Wilby: Photo Courtesy: Mine Kasapoglu / ISL

James Wilby Insists Everyone Can Be Beaten Ahead Of Meeting With Adam Peaty At British Trials

Is it a privilege or a burden – or a bit of both – to be competing at the same time in the same event as one of history’s pioneers? Something James Wilby knows only too well going into the British Swimming Selection Trials.

Wilby is the joint fifth-fastest man all-time over 100br, stopping the clock at 58.46 to claim silver at the 2019 World Championships in Gwangju.

He also shares the water – in competition and in training  at the Loughborough National Centre – with a man in the form of Adam Peaty who has smashed through barriers, shown what is humanly possible and rewritten the 100m breaststroke.

So much so that he has lowered the world record to 56.88 while no man has yet gone inside 58secs.

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Adam Peaty: Photo Courtesy: Arena

Peaty is looking to become the first Briton to defend an Olympic swimming title in Tokyo come July.

Should he do so he would be only the second swimmer – after the great Kosuke Kitajima – to win gold over two lengths of breaststroke on more than one occasion.

Peaty first won a senior international title at the 2014 Commonwealth Games when he had already started to rewrite the British record books.

Since then he has won three straight world titles over 50 and 100m, a feat matched in a European pool and defended his 100br Commonwealth crown – although Cameron Van der Burgh took 50br gold on Gold Coast in 2018.

Then there are the world records. Peaty set his first global mark over 100m in the same lane four of the London Aquatics Centre in which Van der Burgh won gold at the 2012 Olympics when he became the first – and still only – man to go inside the 58-second barrier in 57.92.

Since that evening of 17 April 2015, the Briton has lowered it a further four times including twice en-route to gold at Rio 2016 which he won in 57.13.

Wilby though refuses to be anything other than inspired by Peaty and trains day-in, day-out with iron self-belief that he can eclipse his fellow Briton.

He cites the example of Michael Phelps who was in a three-way tie for second in the 100 fly with Chad Le Clos and Laszlo Cseh at the 2016 Games with an unexpected winner beating the trio.

He said:

“I think every athlete in the end can be beaten at some point.

“The classic one that I think of is Michael Phelps: I think it was Rio and the three of those absolute legends kind of ended up getting joint silver and Joe Schooling got the gold.

“That’s the classic one whenever people say so and so in this event is untouchable.

“I always kind of reflect on that one and be like, you know, it’s possible for everyone to be beaten.

“It takes a perfect race, but you know it’s always just in the name of good competition and good sports.”

Wilby Takes To The Water On Day One

Wilby will take his place in the 100br at the British Swimming Selection Trials which begin on Wednesday at the London Aquatics Centre.

He is one of four swimmers – along with Peaty, Duncan Scott and Luke Greenbank – who have already been named on Team GB with the quartet all individual medallists at the 2019 Worlds.

It also marks 100 days to go until the Olympics are due to get under way in Tokyo.

The event is going ahead with a vastly-reduced programme.

It was reduced in length by one day to run from Wednesday 14 to Sunday 18 April with the junior-specific element removed and numbers limited.

The 800 and 1500 free will be heat-declared winners.

Put simply, should swimmers come in the top two and equal or better the qualification times – linked to here – then they will be considered for nomination to Team GB.

Should swimmers not qualify in London, then there will be further opportunities at next month’s European Championships in Budapest or at designated meets in May/June.

There will also be selections made at the “complete discretion” of the head coach Bill Furniss and national performance director Chris Spice.

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Abbie Wood: Photo Courtesy: Mike Lewis / ISL

Freya Anderson heads the entries for the 200fr ahead of Abbie Wood who has continued her ISL form in the long-course pool at the two British Swimming Meets in Manchester in February and March.

Dan Jervis and Tom Dean meet in the 400 free, Alys Thomas heads up the 100 fly with 0.65 separating the swiftest four entries while Scott will have his first outing of the meet in the 200IM.

Aimee Willmott and Hannah Miley are targeting a place in the 400IM – the pair having performed consistently in international waters for more than a decade.

Read an interview with Aimee Willmott here where she talks about the doubts and dread that the uncertainty of 2020 and 2021 have brought.

The spotlight on day one will fall on the fourth event of the session where Olympic champion Peaty takes to the water with Wilby.

Peaty has already gone 58.52 this year in Manchester although Nicolo Martinenghi tops the rankings in 58.37 as the Italian went third-all time a fortnight ago at the national championships.

Despite being pre-selected, Wilby – the Commonwealth 200br champion – noted that the quartet still had to confirm their slots in their individual events although it is, he admits, a “slight safety net”.

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James Wilby – Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

He said:

“The pre-selection doesn’t change my overall outlook to the trials. I still want to go to the selection trials with the intent of swimming really fast times and setting myself up really nicely.

“It’s something that I’ve done over the past couple of years where I’ve used the meet in April to set the stage for myself for the summer.

“This is going to be the last truly tapered fast hit-out before the Olympics and so it is really nice to have that in April to get a really good understanding of where we are going into the summer.”

Tokyo will be the 27-year-old’s first Olympics, coming a year after first scheduled following the postponement as coronavirus wreaked deathly havoc across the world.

Much is made of landmarks on the path to the Games and Wilby says the start of the trials coinciding with 100 days to go brings it all a little closer.

“It’s always been one of those ones that has seemed a long way off, particularly with everything that has gone on over the last year.

“When it gets below the triple figures, and goes into the 90, 80 and so on and keeps counting down, with any competition that I have done in the past it always gets really real then.

“It’s almost like looking down the barrel of a gun and we are ready to get racing.

“It is just exciting to see it finally happening and that is what we are most looking forward to, which is actually hopefully getting out to Tokyo and doing some racing.

“That is made quite exciting by the 100 day marker.”


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