With the best in British sport gathering for the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year later this month, we caught up with Olympic champion swimmer Adam Peaty who told us how honoured he feels to be nominated for the award for the third time…
Adam Peaty is among country’s top sports stars who’ll be at the Birmingham NEC on Sunday December 18 to celebrate their achievements and discover who’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year after viewers’ votes are counted.
Team GB’s first gold of the Rio Olympics came in the swimming pool courtesy of Adam in the men’s 100m breaststroke, where he smashed his own World Record and beat all-comers by over a second and a half. Here, the British swim hero reflects on being among the final 16 stars nominated for the award, his amazing success and what he watches on TV…
What does it mean to you to be nominated for the BBC Sports Personality Award again this year?
“The occasion really is one of the pinnacles of sport in this country, so it’s such an honour, especially in this Olympic year. I can’t wait to get there. Everyone else is the list is just amazing, especially those in Team GB as we came second in the Olympic medal table. It’ll be my third time nominated and I’ve had such amazing times before. It will be terrific to get up on the stage in front of the huge audience and help give a good case for swimming, I love giving my sport a boost in any way I can.”
Will it be amazing to be among so many sports stars?
“It’s a great get together for all athletes. I mixed with quite a few at the Olympic village, from all sports, so this is a great opportunity to catch up with each other again, as everyone is usually so heavily in training now. We can chat and see how post-Olympics has been, and I like getting a different perspective on other sports. It’s just a great way to end the year, and we can all celebrate together.”
How have you found being in the spotlight after your Olympics success?
“When I went around town in Uttoxeter, where I lived for 21 years, it was amazing. People asking for selfies and chats, is so lovely. As soon as I got off that plane from Rio everything changed. At lot of athletes told me on the plane how mad it was going to be but I didn’t really believe them. Then When I got home it was insane how everybody else was celebrating with me! It’s pretty radical how things changed for me by winning that gold medal. I’ve now moved house to near Loughbrough where it’s nice and quiet but I still get noticed and asked for photos. I’ve adjusted to it now and these last couple of months have been great.”
Have you re-watched the BBC coverage of your Olympic final? You seemed so calm beforehand. It really didn’t seem like you were nervous at all…
“I’ve watched a few times! I remember just telling myself it’s just two lengths. I did great times in the heats and semi, so knew I could win if I just did the job and got it right. It was all about focus and concerntration.”
Are you good friends with the rivals you swam against then – Cameron van den Burgh who got silver, and Cody Miller who took bronze?
“Yeah, we see each other quite a bit at meets, and we do events for Team Arena, so we’re always friendly towards each other. But in our sport, when you’re in the water that’s it, you’re at war! But out of the water we’re mates. It’s like a lot of sports rivalries really.”
What was it like when you finally got that gold medal around your neck?
“There’s nothing like it! And to be the first to get gold for my country at the games was unreal and special. I was so proud to kick off the golds in the best overseas Olympic Games that Team GB has had. It’s been a great two years for me, but I’m hoping to have a few more Olympics and for them to be just as good.”
Have you thought about all the sacrifices you’ve made – the incredible amount of time you must train, some of the social life you must have given up?
“You don’t really think about all that when you’re racing, but that last 25 metres you take that all into your race, you know how hard you’ve worked. The training is absolutely ridiculous for swimming – you have to do at least six hours a day, every day, just to make finals. It’s been a hard journey, but now I’ve got my foothold on my event I don’t want it to end. I’ve broken the World Record seven times in two years and I’d like that to continue. It’s all about moving on now and seeing where else I can improve.”
Are you looking to add a gold in the 200m breaststroke race in the next Olympics?
“Yes and I think eventually I’ll get there at the longer distance. I’d like more golds in the future, so want to improve my sprint events at the same time. The 200m is a different stroke style and the optimal weight you need to be is different too. I’d have to adjust my stroke a bit as I’d be coming out of the water too high for the longer distance event. The one thing I do I know is if I want more Olympic golds it’s going to be tremendously hard work for over three years.”
Your family were out there watching you win gold…that must have been special as I’m sure they must have been supportive since you were a young boy?
“Yes it’s their victory as well as mine, as they’ve taken me to the pool for training at ridiculous hours – 4am starts and giving up their evenings. They’ve always been so supportive. It’s a massive victory for them too. It was great for them to be there as my dad had never been abroad before – he enjoyed the plane journey!”
Do you find time to do any other sports?
“I quite like cycling. I’ve got my own bike and go out for rides when I can. It’s only a small part of my training, not hugely, but I enjoy it in the summer. Otherwise I watch a bit of football now and then, though I’m not a religious follower.”
Will you be training on Christmas Day?
“Yes I train every Christmas Day – do my cardio, going for a run before stuffing myself with Christmas dinner. Nothing changes there!”
Do you watch a lot of TV in between your swim training?
“Yes I do, it’s a great way to relax between training sessions. At the moment I’m really enjoying The Crown, I love that series! I also love Westworld and I’ve done all the Games Of Thrones episodes that have been out so far, and can’t wait for more. And for something lighter I watch Modern Family!”
* BBC Sports Personality of The Year is on BBC1 on Sunday December 18 at 6.40pm