It’s been a little while since British Swimming had a hero, but there’s no doubt about who was the hero at Kazan – despite the governing body FINA bizarrely awarding their ‘Best Male’ award to convicted doper, Sun Yang of China (Yang didn’t even show up to the final of the 1500m after an alleged altercation with a female Brazilian swimmer).
British breaststroker Adam Peaty – still only 20 – had an absolutely stellar World Champs, better surely than he could have ever hoped for. As well as winning both the 50m and 100m Breaststroke events with a new world record in the 50m event, he also helped Team GB to gold and a World Record in the relatively new event of the 4 x 100m Mixed Medley Relay.
Of the nine medals we won in total (taking us into fourth position overall), Adam Peaty was responsible for three of them – and was pretty close to snatching a fourth in the 4 x 100m Medley Relay (sadly we were just edged out into fourth position, despite Peaty ensuring the lead during the Breaststroke leg) .
That’s not to say that Kazan was all about Peaty. There were plenty of other Team GB swimmers who performed magnificently on the world stage, most notably perhaps James Guy.
A year younger than even Peaty, Guy showed absolutely no fear at all when he beat the best of the world, including China’s Sun Yang and America’s Ryan Lochte, in the 200 Free as well as bringing home gold in the final leg of the 4 x 200m men’s freestyle relay despite being well down on both the Russian and US swimmers when he dived in (let’s not forget Guy also claimed silver behind Sun Yang in the 400 Free).
Another stand out performer for me was Jazz Carlin. While her performance was somewhat eclipsed by the magnificent gold winning and World Record performance of America’s Katie Ledecky who dipped under 8:08 in the women’s 800m Freestyle, the bronze medal was an amazing achievement for someone whose swimming career has been dogged with illness and injury over the last few years.
All in all then, there was plenty to be optimistic about a year from the Olympic swimmers. Our young swimmers, including Guy and Peaty, can only get better and some of our older swimmers, such as Halsall and Miley, have time to return to their best.
Not since Rebecca Adlington’s double gold winning performance in Beijing in 2008 has swimming had such a high profile with breaststroker Adam Peaty leading the way – just like breaststrokers Duncan Goodhew and David Wilkie before him.
What’s created this turnaround in fortune for British Swimming is difficult to say with certainty but certainly it seems the appointment of Bill Furniss – Adlington’s former coach – as GB Head Coach has had a particularly positive impact.
After London 2012, British Swimming was in a dark place but in just three years the corner seems to have been turned. A year out from Rio and the future of British Swimming looks bright once again.
Who knows we may even see increased funding for swimming once again with a bit of medal success as well as decent live BBC TV coverage – rather than just a highlights package on the red button. Or is that too much to ask for?