(Reuters) – Nothing at the Olympics is certain, but the prospect of Adam Peaty winning the 100 metres breaststroke gold in Tokyo is about as close to it as it gets.
The Briton has set the world record five times and clocked all but one of the 20 fastest times in history, four of those this year, and according to his coach, there’s not much that can stop him.
“I wouldn’t want to race him at the minute,” coach Mel Marshall told Reuters on Saturday.
“He’s prepared well, he’s prepared continuously. We’ve arrived off that preparation in peak physical shape, peak psychological shape, peak spiritual shape, and we’ll see what that gives us.”
Peaty gets underway on Saturday in the heats of the 100 meters breaststroke, with his sights trained on breaking his own world record of 56.88 and becoming the first British swimmer to defend an Olympic title.
He hit 57.39 in April and closest to him going into Tokyo are Arno Kammminga of the Netherlands and American Michael Andrew, 0.7 seconds adrift.
International swimming careers have begun and ended in the seven years since Peaty has been undefeated on the big stage and Marshall, his coach for 12 of those, says he’s motivated to keep finding ways to stay ahead.
“The fairytale has to change at some point but I’m confident in his preparation and looking forward to seeing what he can do,” she said.
“It’s been an honor in terms of working with somebody at that level who pushes and drives himself forward.”
Most of the British team are first-time Olympians and Marshall said the delayed Games had given younger swimmers more time to develop.
The opening ceremony and being around other athletes provided a sense of normalcy, she said, and everyone was now used to performing without a crowd.
“People are desperate to race,” she said. “It’s just a triumph us all being here.”
Peaty’s dominance doesn’t normally make for good betting odds, but British bookmaker William Hill has got him at 20-1 to win in Tokyo, hoping to lure new customers, but capping stakes at 1 pound ($1.37).
Former British Olympian Mark Foster said Peaty was more dominant than athlete Usain Bolt at his peak.
“Everyone else is swimming for second and they all know it,” he wrote in the Evening Standard.
“As bad as it sounds the only thing that can stop Adam is COVID.”