‘Ten years ago we were happy making finals. We aren’t happy making finals any more. The culture has totally changed’
Adam Peaty sent a warning to the world as Britain’s swimmers completed their greatest ever Olympic campaign.
An eighth medal gave them their biggest haul in 113 years and banished the embarrassment of just three in the home Games of London 2012.
Peaty, the spiritual leader of a rejuvenated team, said: “Ten years ago we were happy making finals. We aren’t happy making finals any more.
“The culture has totally changed. We are aiming for gold, we are aiming to be the best in the world and to dominate the world.”
You could see it yesterday in the body language of Peaty, Luke Greenbank, James Guy and Duncan Scott after being edged out by the USA for 4 x 100m medley relay gold.
It took a world record to beat them by a swimming superpower never defeated in the event.
AFP via Getty Images)
Yet Scott looked like he had swallowed a wasp rather than become the first British Olympian ever to win four medals at a single Games.
And Peaty, taking his own Tokyo tally to three, admitted: “It’s painful, I don’t like coming second at all.”
They had just lost to an American quartet spearheaded by the peerless Caeleb Dressel, capping one of the greatest ever individual Olympic performances with his fifth gold medal.
Yet Britain pushed them to almost breaking point with Peaty posting the fastest ever breaststroke relay split of 56.53 seconds en route to a European record 3:27.51.
“I think a lot of teams are going to look at us and how we do things,” said the Staffordshire pool terrier.
“Because we are now always looking for gold, always looking for world records, I’m incredibly proud to be part of this team. It’s history making.”
Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
As Britain’s fab four collected their gongs, performance director Chris Spice hailed “phenomenal performances across the board” and lifted the lid on the transformation within British Swimming.
“It’s a significant shift in where we’ve gone,” he said. “To be talking about the colours of the medals rather than the numbers.
“One of the reasons I took the job was that I could see that we could swim fast but we couldn’t swim fast when it matters. I thought that’s something we can fix.
“There was a whole programme [created] around how do we swim fast in the arena – how do we get our athletes to step up and not be nervous.”
Spice, who took charge following swimming’s London 2012 bellyflop, found that only 20 per cent of the team posted personal bests that Olympic year.
“I’ve always believed that you can’t give someone self-confidence but what you can do is create an environment where they build their own,” he said.
They invested in talent identification, coaches and sports science, streamlined national centres of excellence from five down to two and devised a plan everyone could buy into.
Tom Dean, little known but full of potential, was persuaded to stay in the UK rather than take up a US scholarship.
The same Tom Dean who last week became the first British male swimmer since 1908 to win more than one gold at a single Games.
“This is a high-performance environment and you have to challenge people,” said head coach Bill Furniss. “It is tough love but it is possible to do it in the right way.”