Adam Peaty rallied from being “at the lowest of the low” as he ended a roller coaster past few days by winning gold in the men’s 50 metres breaststroke in his final Commonwealth Games race.
Peaty’s eight-year unbeaten run over 100 metres ended on Sunday and he admitted he had expected too much of himself on his comeback from a broken foot he suffered in a training accident 10 weeks ago.
But he warned his rivals he was like a cornered lion ready to “bite” back and duly claimed the only major gold medal missing from his vast collection after touching the wall first in 26.76 seconds.
He had suggested he was “not bothered” about these Games with the 2024 Olympics uppermost in his mind but after finishing 0.21s ahead of silver medallist Sam Williamson of Australia and Scotland’s Ross Murdoch, who took bronze, Peaty straddled a lane marker and let out a huge roar of emotion.
Peaty revealed it was Murdoch who had persuaded him to continue competing in this event, 48 hours after his fourth-place finish in the 100m, which the Englishman disclosed left him close to rock-bottom.
“I was at the lowest of the low,” said the triple Olympic champion and 50m and 100m world record holder. “I had something which was almost guaranteed taken away from me. I took it for granted.
“I said to Ross that I didn’t want to do the 50m and he said I’d regret it for years after, for the rest of my life. What happened (in the final) was the emotion and rawness – that’s what you saw.
“I struggled because I had no race exposure. I didn’t know what I was doing. I just went down with my heart and soul. It took until now to find that. It’s been a very tough Games, a very hard Games.
“I came from literally the lowest point. But you know what, I’m a fighter. I’m not going to let anyone else come and take it. They are going to have to work hard for it. It is a sweet victory for me.”
Ex-swimmer Mark Foster branded Peaty’s dismissive remarks about the Games following his semi-final on Monday as “disrespectful”, but the 27-year-old backtracked moments later on social media.
His reaction to Tuesday’s win – greeted by deafening cheers at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre, just over an hour’s drive from where he grew up in Uttoxeter – suggested he still has an affection for these Games after his first 50m title following silvers at Glasgow 2014 and on the Gold Coast in 2018.
“Mark hasn’t done it in a very long time,” said Peaty. “That was my kind of scapegoat. It does mean a lot to me. You saw that. But I want to say sorry to everyone who has worked hard to get to these Games.
“I had a lot of adversity. I was like ‘I’m retiring here’. It just shows even if the odds are against you, even if you’re against yourself, give yourself the chance to pick yourself up and go for it.
“I gave literally absolutely everything in that race. I don’t care about the time or the result. I just care about the crowd, enjoying the race and winning.”
Peaty wants to continue “working” but added that is a “very dangerous territory for me – and for everyone else”, so he will take an extended break before continuing his preparations for Paris 2024.
“My family will make me because it’s going to be a long two years and I don’t want to burn out like I have been during this last year,” he said.
“I’ve got that renewed hunger for Paris now. I’ve got something to prove – and that’s when I’m dangerous.”
Elsewhere, Brodie Williams claimed his first major gold medal in the men’s 200m backstroke with a winning time in the final of one minute 56.40secs, just one hundredth of a second ahead of Australia’s Bradley Woodward.
Williams’ English team-mate and Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist Luke Greenbank led up until the final turn before fading in the closing stages and eventually finishing fifth.
James Guy had a spectacular end to the men’s 100m butterfly, rising from fifth after halfway to collect silver as he finished joint second alongside Australia’s Matthew Temple in a time of 51.40s, with the pair finishing 0.16s adrift of Canada’s Joshua Liendo.
Laura Stephens claimed silver in the women’s 200m butterfly while the English quartet of Lauren Cox, James Wilby, Guy and Freya Anderson took bronze in the mixed 4×100 medley relay, with James Hollis doing likewise in the men’s 100m butterfly S10.