DOHA : Olympic champion Adam Peaty is uncertain whether he will be back to top form for his 100 metres breaststroke defence at the Paris Games but is at peace with the prospect of not being favourite in an event he has dominated like no other.
On the comeback trail after taking a mental health break last year, the British world record holder topped qualifying on Sunday for the 100m final in Doha with a time of 58.60 seconds on his long-awaited return to the World Championships.
Peaty returned to the pool with modest results at a trio of World Cup events in October, and is building step by step on the road to Paris where he will bid for an unprecedented third successive gold in the event.
While Monday’s final in Doha will give him an idea of his standing, he said only time would tell whether his previous heights were attainable.
“Who knows? Unfortunately, success and especially sport is never a linear graph,” Peaty, whose world record of 56.88 has stood for over four years, told Reuters.
“With this sport you just never know what’s going to happen in an Olympic year. So I can’t just put myself out or put myself in. Because we don’t know until we start the Olympic Games.
“Will it ever be back to who I was? Maybe not.
“I’m at peace with that – and that I’m not just an athlete, I’m a person that wants to do better in the sport but also to continually get better at growth.”
Peaty, who has been open about suffering depression and drinking problems, had a breakdown last year and missed last year’s world championships in Fukuoka while taking time out from competition.
It was time well-spent, he said, allowing him to re-evaluate priorities and focus on life outside sport.
In Peaty’s absence, China’s Qin Haiyang completed an unprecedented sweep of the 50, 100 and 200m breaststroke titles at the world championships in Fukuoka last July to emerge as a major threat to Peaty’s hope of a “three-peat” at Paris.
Like many other top swimmers, Qin has opted to skip Doha, meaning he will relinquish his titles.
Peaty was well-beaten by Qin at the World Cup events in October but the Briton said he was in a “very different place” at the time and still believed he could return to the top.
“Going into the Olympic Games now – again, (it’s) very, very different. I’m not going in there (as) favourite,” he said.
“I haven’t done anything the last few years – which I’m pleased with.
“I’m finding a way back now. I’ve got the experience, I’ve got the knowledge and I’ve got the talent, I believe, to do it.”