F.Forget death and taxes, in Tokyo queues, health questionnaires and the men’s 100-meter breaststroke. There are supposed to be no certainties in sport, but Adam Peaty’s chances of winning a second gold here in Tokyo are almost inevitable. Its dominance is unparalleled. He has won the last three World Championships and the Olympic Games in Rio, broken the world record five times in five years and swum the 17 fastest times in history, four of them this spring and summer. There is no other man in the field who has achieved his personal best within a second.
That year, Peaty’s closest rival, Arno Kamminga from the Netherlands, broke the British swimmer’s world record. Unfortunately for Kamminga, it was the world record Peaty set in 2015 when he became the first man in history to break the 58-second mark. Kamminga is now the second. Meanwhile, Peaty has hired four more. He has pushed through the 57-second mark and is now talking about whether he can possibly break the 56-second mark. In context, that would be more than 6 seconds faster than Adrian Moorhouse’s time when he won gold at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
“Of course I’ll try to go up against Peaty,” Kamminga said with the expression of a man trying the impossible. Really, as long as he stays fit and healthy, Peaty races himself. The heats will start on Saturday evening UK time, the semi-finals will take place on Sunday and the finals will take place in the early hours of Monday morning. Watch as one of the greatest Olympic athletes in British history becomes the country’s first swimmer to defend an Olympic title.
Adam Peaty with his gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Photo: Tom Jenkins / The Guardian
Peaty is the star of what Team GB boss Mark England called “the strongest swim team ever” in the country. It’s a very different roster than the one who won six medals (Peaty’s gold and five silver) in Rio five years ago, as more than two-thirds of them are going to their first Olympics. Duncan Scott, 24, is one of the few swimmers here who has played the games before. In Rio, Scott was part of the relays that won silver in both the men’s 4x200m freestyle and the men’s 4x100m medley. He will be an important part of both teams again this time. Great Britain is the easy favorite in the freestyle race ahead of Australia and the USA.
Scott also has strong chances in his two individual competitions. He won his first individual World Championship medal in 2019 when he finished third in the 200m freestyle in Gwanju, and his personal best over the distance at the British Championships in April is the fastest time in the world this year. With defending champion Sun Yang banned from participating for his doping violation, Scott is one of the favorites in one of the more competitive events. Given the way he got stuck in a row with Sun when he refused to share a podium with him in Gwanju, he would probably prefer if he had the chance to beat him here.
Scott has another shot in the men’s 200 meter individual medley, especially since for the first time in this century neither he nor anyone else has to beat Michael Phelps to win it. Another finalist from Rio, the 50m freestyler Ben Proud, struggled with illness and injuries, but has just returned to the form that brought him bronze at the 2017 World Championships. It’s a crazy race and he’s up against US star Caeleb Dressel. There is also Luke Greenbank at 200m back. At the last World Cup he won bronze.
The women’s roster is not quite as strong in depth. Molly Renshaw, European Champion in the 200m breaststroke, swam the second fastest time in the world this year when she broke her own British record at the national championships in April. Kathleen Dawson will likely have to break her own European record to finish on the 100m back podium, while Freya Anderson will be one of a group of swimmers behind Australian couple Emma McKeon and Cate Campbell in the bronze 100m free. Former junior world champion Alice Dearing goes into the Open Water Marathon away from the pool.