Silver doesn’t suit Adam Peaty. The medal that hung around his neck as he spoke on the final day of action at the Tokyo Aquatics Center would be a prized possession for most.
For a champion like Peaty, however, second place is never enough. It’s not enough for the rest of this record-breaking British team now either, in what is a significant change in attitude from the past Games.
Take Duncan Scott. He became the first Team GB athlete to win four medals at one Olympics on Sunday and yet he couldn’t hide his disappointment at narrowly missing two individual titles and a world record.
Team GB won silver in the 4x100m relay, but the color no longer fits the improving team
Adam Peaty helped GB to eight medals, with four golds as they advanced as contenders
Or look at James Guy, the winner of two relays earlier this week, who described the silver in the men’s 4x100m medley as “disturbing”.
As for Peaty, after Sir Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny and 1908 swimmer Henry Taylor, who hoped to become just the fourth Briton to win three golds in one Olympics?
“I felt the pain of what it’s like to be second and I don’t like it at all,” he said.
The rest of the world is on hold. And so are the US and Australia, the only countries to finish above Great Britain in the swim medal table. Peaty added: “Ten years ago we were happy to make it to finals. We are not happy to make finals anymore. That’s the culture that’s different now and that’s part of our success.
“We are always looking for gold, always looking for world records. We strive to be the best in the world and dominate the world.
A stunning four Olympic medals for Duncan Scott still wasn’t enough for the British star
‘How do you do that when there is such depth and such a strong team in America? That will be the golden question for the next three years. By the time Paris comes, we will develop as a team. I think a lot of teams are going to watch us.
“I’m incredibly proud to be part of this team – it makes history.”
Indeed, with Team GB taking home four golds, three silvers and one bronze from Tokyo, overshadowing their previous best of seven at London 1908. The last time the Games were held in London was less successful. The mere three medals they won eight years ago led to an overhaul of the British Swimming leadership team.
Australian Chris Spice, who was the RFU’s performance director when England won the World Cup in 2003, and Bill Furniss, the former coach of two-time Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington, came in. Together, they drastically changed the country’s fortune in the pool.
“We’re very hard on them, but we’re also very caring,” Furniss said when asked how their coaching approach differed from other sports, especially rowing, where former coach Jurgen Grobler was accused last week of “destroying souls.” of athletes.
“We try to push people to their limits, but it’s possible to do it the right way. It’s hard love.’
James Guy described silver in the 4x100m medley relay as ‘disturbing’ earlier this week
That tough love has clearly been welcomed by the UK team, including Guy, who is better placed than anyone to talk about the culture change that has been on the team since 2013.
“When I made my first senior team at the World Cup, we had a team meeting every day and applauded people when they made it to a final,” said the 25-year-old. “Now I think we’ve come second and we’re upset. Things have progressed tremendously.’
Another sign of how things have progressed were comments from American superstar Caeleb Dressel, who said it was their rivalry with Team GB that prompted them to break the world record in the men’s medley yesterday.
Great Britain is the world champion in the event, but they finished seventh after the opening match of Luke Greenbank, the bronze medalist in the 200m backstroke. However, Peaty swam the fastest breaststroke in history – 56.63 sec – to give the quartet a lead. “Wow, that’s pretty good!” said a stunned Dressel when told of Peaty’s time.
It was then Dressel who was tasked with chasing Britain’s Guy on the third stage and he did it with the fastest butterfly of all time. On the freestyle, American Zach Apple was able to hold off Scott, as Team GB finished just 0.73sec behind the US’s 3min 26.78sec with their own new European record.
The British team’s outstanding performance bodes well for the future, with Paris in just three years’ time
For Scott it was also Britain’s best fourth medal of a single Games, the silver being matched by those of the same suit he’d won in the 200m freestyle and 200m medley, as well as his gold in the 4x200m relay.
Yet the shy Scottish swimmer could not comprehend the magnitude of what he had just accomplished. “I don’t know exactly how big the four medals are yet,” the 24-year-old admitted. “It’s probably not sunk properly.”
Instead, it was left to Peaty to discuss his mate’s milestone.
“I don’t think he understands,” Peaty said. “He’s just an incredible athlete. I hope he gets the respect and recognition he deserves at home. He is very inspiring.’
The same can be said of Peaty. The same can be said of British swimming here in Tokyo.