KAZAN, Russia - Britain’s Adam Peaty competes at his first world championships on Sunday targetting double gold and with the 20-year-old’s breaststroke rivals gunning for him.
In the last year Peaty has secured Commonwealth and European titles in the 100 meters and 50m respectively and holds the world record in both events.
It is no wonder people are expecting great things, but Bill Furniss, the Great Britain head coach, warned that Peaty’s exploits have made him a marked man.
“He knows he has a target on his back,” Furniss said of Peaty’s debut world championship and likely Rio 2016 campaign.
“What he’s done in the last three years is that he has come through the ranks and shaken the breaststroke world up.
“He now has to handle great expectations and everyone will be gunning for him.”
At the Europeans in Berlin, his four-gold bounty was topped with a 50m world record in his semi-final — the image of the championships that of Peaty smiling and flexing his muscles.
At the world trials in London he clocked 57.92 seconds in the 100m to shatter the previous mark of Cameron van der Burgh, his South African ‘idol’ turned rival, by 0.54 seconds.
No wonder Peaty is being compared to former British breaststroke greats David Wilkie, Duncan Goodhew, Nick Gillingham and Adrian Moorhouse.
“This is an opportunity to become even better now and the only pressure is the one I put on myself,” said Peaty, the only swimmer to dip under 59 seconds this year.
“There is a lot more pressure from the media and people back home. They see it as two guaranteed golds, but anything can happen in races.
“Down that last length is going to be for Queen and country and I carry a lot of pride on my back that I am from Great Britain and I think that will help me.”
Peaty is in for a busy week.
Aside from his 100m and 50m assaults, he will swim the 200m and men’s 4x100m medley relay on the closing night.
Editing by Martyn Herman