Adam Peaty surprised even himself after improving his own 50 metres breaststroke world record by almost half a second in one day at the World Championships in Budapest.
The Olympic gold medallist won 100m breaststroke gold on Monday’s second day and predicted there would be “something special” over one length on Tuesday.
But not even the 22-year-old Uttoxeter swimmer expected what happened – a 0.47sec improvement on the world record of 26.42sec he set in winning the 50m title in Kazan, Russia in 2015.
Peaty clocked 26.10sec in the morning heat, 0.44sec ahead of his nearest rival, and improved his mark to 25.95sec in the evening semi-final, 0.73sec clear of the field. “I didn’t think I was going to do that,” said Peaty, who shook his head in disbelief after seeing his time.
Peaty, though, knows what matters is the title on Wednesday, when he will likely also be part of the British 4x100m mixed medley relay team seeking to win successive golds after victory in 2015.
He added: “I enjoyed it. Obviously it’s nothing without the gold that goes along with it. I’m going to be focusing now, staying neutral and see what we get (on Wednesday).”
Peaty’s advantage would be a huge margin over two lengths of the pool, let alone one.
But he is focused on himself, having learned from experience since 2014 and winning Commonwealth, European, world and Olympic titles.
“I wasn’t prepared to do a world record,” Peaty added. “It was just me easing through the stroke and touching the wall. Progressing to the semi-final. It was the same tonight. I was on such a massive high from this morning and it was so hard to ignore the fact that I did a world record and try to get myself emotionally ready.
“I thought I was going to go slower [in the semi-final] because I was a little bit less energetic.”
Peaty has the five fastest times in history over 50m breaststroke, a non-Olympic event, and admitted a sub-26sec swim had not been on his radar, with his focus on ‘Project 56’, swimming beneath 57 seconds over 100m, since Rio.
He said: “This morning everyone was like ‘Project 25’ and I was like ‘go on then’. I just dived in tonight and was like ‘I feel good’. I wasn’t that far behind after the start, which was a bonus for me.”
Duncan Scott and James Guy earlier missed out on adding to Britain’s medal collection, which included Ben Proud’s 50m butterfly gold on Monday. Scott and Guy had to settle for fourth and fifth place, respectively, in the 200m freestyle.