Team GB swimmers look to make a splash in Tokyo this summer by breaking 1908 medals, taking them to seven medals…with Adam Peaty leading the charge in the pool
The best showing of a British Olympic swim team took place in a 100m outdoor pool on a London athletics field.
Henry Taylor, a cotton mill worker training in a canal, was the home hero at the time, claiming three of his country’s four gold medals at White City Stadium in a bathing suit made from handwoven silk.
Since then, 113 years and 24 Olympics have passed and Team GB have never managed to match the seven swimming medals they won in London in 1908, with the best achievement being the six they won in Rio 2016.
Team GB set to break their record for 1980 Olympic medals this summer
Team GB swim leaders say recent years have been the most successful in British history
But according to the boss of the British team in Tokyo, that 113-year-old record could finally be broken at the newly built but empty Aquatics Centre, where ultra-professional Adam Peaty is expected to take on the lead role of amateur Taylor.
“In 1908 there was no women’s swimming and it was a 100m pool that was stuck in the middle of athletics, so I don’t think we can really compare 1908 to now,” laughs Chris Spice, British Swimming’s performance director. “But the numbers are the numbers — and if we swim well, I’m sure we can do it.
“We have set our bar high. The last five or six years have been the most successful in our history and we want to build on that. We don’t want to go backwards. We definitely want to do better than in Rio. That pushes us very much into the background.’
Adam Peaty leads the British medal race this summer, lining up for three Tokyo medals
The pool program kicks off on Saturday morning, with world record holder Peaty beginning the defense of his 100m breaststroke title in the heats, ahead of what is seen as a surefire gold medal in Monday’s final.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete, a phenomenal champion,” Spice said Sports post. “The way he behaves, his attention to detail, his dedication to training is contagious to the rest of the team. You can see our youngsters on training watching him train. He is only an inspiration. He’s a leader in more than just fast swimming in the pool.”
Peaty is expected to come home with three medals here in Tokyo as he also swims in the men’s 4 x 100m and mixed relays, for which Team GB is among the favourites.
But Duncan Scott is on the hunt for five, with three relays to go in the 200m individual medley and 200m freestyle, where he is tipped for a podium finish.
Duncan Scott has five medals on hold this summer, including in the 200m freestyle
Team GB’s Molly Renshaw is among the best in the world in the 200m backstroke category
Tom Dean is another contender in the 200m freestyle and Ben Proud is expected to take on the challenge in the 50m freestyle, as is Luke Greenback in the 200m backstroke. Kathleen Dawson and Molly Renshaw are among the world’s best in the 100m backstroke and 200m breaststroke respectively.
However, there is some concern among British swimmers that cheating could thrive during these Games as the level of drug testing around the world was reduced at the height of the pandemic.
But Spice added: “I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it because whoever is on the blocks, we have to beat them no matter what.
‘People have insight into whether it is good, bad or not good. We have only focused on ourselves. We know we’re in good shape, and whoever comes, we want to beat them.”