‘I’m a fighter’: Peaty gives ‘heart and soul’ to win 50m breaststroke gold

He thumped his chest, punched the water and bellowed a roar so loud and primeval it could have been heard in the Serengeti. And then, as he started to revel in the sweetest of redemptions, Adam Peaty began to smile.

On Sunday Peaty suffered his first 100m breastroke defeat since 2014. On Monday he was accused of disrespecting the Commonwealth Game and was submerged in a funk of gloom. But on Tuesday, over an extraordinary 50 metres suffused in heart and grit, he rose again.

And how. Peaty might have been a little slowly away but he had powered ahead by halfway. And while sharks still lurked around him, he fended them off smartly to come home in 26.76sec. Australia’s Sam Williamson took silver, 0.21 back, while Scotland’s Ross Murdoch claimed bronze.

“After the 100m I was at the lowest of the low,” Peaty said.. “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 the rest of my life. Today was the emotion and rawness – that’s what you saw.”

Asked to describe the 50m final, Peaty was blunt. “I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said. “I just went down with my heart and soul. It’s been a very tough Games. But you know what? I’m a fighter. I thought: I’m not going to let anyone else come and take it. They are going to have to work hard for it.”

This victory was made all the sweeter by the fact it meant Peaty, who returned to training just four weeks’ ago after fracturing a toe, completed the set of major titles. But no sooner had he received his medal that Peaty walked over to his coach and mentor, Mel Marshall, and put it around her neck.

Peaty also apologised for suggesting he was more focused on the Paris 2024 Olympics than winning gold in Birmingham. “As an athlete in that moment I was at my lowest,” he said. “And it was kind of my scapegoat.

“I can be a mardy bastard,” he added. “I was really bad yesterday, really bad because I had nothing to fight with. My spirit was low, my physical side was low, my mental side was low.

“But this does mean a lot to me. You can see that. But I want to say sorry to everyone who has worked hard to get to these Games.”

Peaty also admitted that he had lost his hunger in the past year – and a part of himself, too. Now, though, England’s lionheart could feel it rushing back.

“I didn’t have the hunger, no way,” he said. “You can easily say in each interview, ‘I’m ready, I’m confident’. But it’s not until you get out on those blocks that you feel ready – and I didn’t feel ready in the 100m. I felt lost. I didn’t know where I was. But I’ve got that renewed hunger for Paris now. I’ve got something to prove – and that’s when I’m dangerous.”

Earlier there was a surprise in the men’s 200m backstroke as England’s Brodie Williams pipped Bradley Woodward of Australia. But there was heartache for Luke Greenbank of England, who somehow came fifth despite leading for most of the race.

There was more success for England in the women’s 200m butterfly final as Laura Stephens won silver behind Australia’s 18-year-old sensation, Elizabeth Dekkers.

Another silver followed in the men’s 100m butterfly as James Guy produced a storming second half to come home in 51.40, behind Canada’s Joshua Liendo Edwards – while a bronze was secured in the 4×100 mixed medley.