Adam Peaty ended a roller-coaster three days at the Commonwealth Games with the last gold medal he craved – and an apology.
The triple Olympic champion had raised eyebrows in some quarters when he suggested Sunday’s shock defeat in the 100 metres breaststroke – his first in eight years – was not that important because this competition is not top of his priorities. But his exuberant celebrations last night after a redemptive 50m breaststroke victory, which completed his gold medal collection, showed just how much it mattered.
“I want to be accountable for that [comment],” said Peaty. “It came across very wrong, a lot of emotions and yesterday I just turned up. After the 100, I was at the lowest of the low. I was like: ‘I’m retiring here’. I had something which was almost guaranteed taken away from me. I took it for granted. Mel [Marshall, his coach] said, ‘Today you wake up and you play.’ I replied, ‘No, today I fight.’
“Sometimes playing is not enough. I gave literally absolutely everything in that race. I’m a fighter. Today was emotion and rawness – that’s what you saw.”
Despite attempting to convey an image of the carefree champion unfazed by failure on a stage he knows pales in significance to the Olympics, you always suspected there was more internal angst than Peaty had let on after the shock of not even making the 100m podium on Sunday.
He admitted to only sleeping for two hours during a restless night after that shock defeat, but when he returned to action for the 50m heats the following day he had an ominous message for his rivals: “Back a lion into a corner and they are going to bite.”
Here was the evidence. From the moment he emerged from the water to take his first breath, he possessed a lead that was never going to be relinquished. Cheered by a raucous Sandwell Aquatics Centre crowd, he maintained his grip throughout to send them into delirium, triumphing in 26.76 seconds. For all the Home Nations success in the pool over recent days, this was the one person they had come to see win.
That he managed to do so is remarkable. When he broke a bone in his right foot while on a training camp in Tenerife in May, doctors told him it would take 12 weeks to recover. That was 10 weeks ago.
He was totally ill prepared to even compete in Birmingham, having taken a total break from swimming for three months after last year’s Olympics and raced just twice since the start of the year. For more than a month after picking up his injury, he could swim only using his arms. He is nowhere near peak physical shape.
“I don’t think anyone else would even have been able to compete here,” said Australia’s Sam Williamson, who won silver ahead of Scotland’s Ross Murdoch in bronze. “He’s without a doubt the best breaststroker the world has ever seen.”
Asked what he had learned over a rollercoaster few days, Peaty replied: “It just shows you even if the odds are against you, even if you’re against yourself, give yourself the chance to pick yourself up and go for it. That’s what I did tonight.
“I should probably not have gone that fast. I hadn’t done that speed since 2020. I’m in a good spot now because I’ve got that hunger for the 100.”
Having suffered an unexpected 50m breaststroke defeat at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, it also means Peaty has now completed his set of 50 and 100m gold medals at world, European and Commonwealth level. The 50m is not contested at the Olympics.
Although the furore over Peaty’s Commonwealth Games comments was little more than a storm in a teacup – not to mention factually correct, given the clear hierarchy of sporting importance between the Olympics and Commonwealths – he even showed composure to apologise for his words.
“I want to start by holding myself accountable for that,” he said. “But as an athlete at that moment, I was at the lowest. I had nothing else to say. I had nothing else to do. And that was my kind of scapegoat.
“It does mean a lot to me. You can see that. But I want to say sorry to everyone who has worked hard to get to these Games.”
Stating that his goal now is to prove that he can stay at the top until the Paris 2024 Olympics, he offered a warning when asked how he planned to celebrate this triumph.
“I would say party, but I don’t feel like partying,” he said. “I feel like working. That’s very dangerous territory for me – and for everyone else. I’ve got that renewed hunger now. I’ve got something to prove, and that’s when I’m dangerous.”
Earlier, England’s Brodie Williams added 200m backstroke gold to the 100m silver he claimed on Saturday. In second place at the final turn, Williams produced a storming finish to pass long-time leader and Olympic bronze medallist Luke Greenbank, who faded dramatically in the closing stages to finish fifth.
“I just tried to work that last 50 and I am lucky to get the touch,” said Williams. “It’s a shame not to have Luke Greenbank on the podium with me, he has been the standard of backstroke in Britain and I know he has had Covid recently. I am glad we can push each other and the backstroke boys will be back.”
There was further English joy courtesy of Laura Stephens, who won 200m butterfly silver, James Guy, who won 100m butterfly silver, and James Hollis, who claimed 100m butterfly S10 bronze.
Debutant Jarman wins four golds in historic appearance
Kate Rowan at Arena Birmingham
Jake Jarman carved out a slice of history here after victory in the men’s vault earned him his fourth gold medal at his debut Commonwealth Games, with the 20-year-old from Peterborough equalling the feat of shooter Mick Gault in Kuala Lumpur 24 years ago.
Team-mate Joe Fraser almost matched Jarman’s golden haul but a slip-up on the high bar denied him a clean sweep.
Nevertheless, Fraser became the first Englishman to win gold on parallel bars.
Alice Kinsella, who won an Olympic bronze in the team event in Tokyo, added to her Commonwealth team gold with a well-deserved victory on the floor after the disappointment of coming fourth in the all-around and balance beam.
But it was the Jarman show, although he celebrated his success with the modesty which has endeared him to the public over the past few days. “It’s always very challenging,” he said. “You don’t know how you might do. You can be under just as much pressure at a smaller competition as well as a competition this big. But to be able to come here and enjoy it and produce an amazing result, I am absolutely honoured.
“I’m going to find somewhere in my house to store the medals – maybe a glass cabinet or something like that, if there’s space.”
He will have little time to party, with the European Championships in Munich starting in nine days. “I will have a nice meal out tonight and then relax. The downtime is so important; you have to mentally reset. But we will be back on it soon.”
Jarman was first encouraged into gymnastics as a seven-year-old, and spent hours climbing the monkey bars in his local playground. With his complex vault routines, he has now become one of the faces of these Games, having been a reserve at the Tokyo Olympics, where the British men came fourth. That team was all-English, including Fraser, James Hall and Giarnni Regini-Moran.
Such is the level of difficulty Jarman can reach on the vault, that even if he made errors on both attempts, he could still win gold. He made a backwards step on both landings but he ended up with a combined score of 14.916. Regini-Moran was just behind him on 14.633, with bronze going to Australian James Bacueti.
Fraser praised the crowd’s support. “I have been filled with joy here,” he said. “It just makes me want to add more to my training, work harder so I can perform in front of this crowd. This is my home town, this is my home crowd.”
Kinsella’s gold made up for the disappointment of missing out on a medal on Sunday because of the error she made on her floor routine in the difficult 2½ twist into a somersault. She completed the difficult floor routine with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex and Princess Charlotte in attendance.
Ondine Achampong claimed a second silver after her strong performance in the all-around.