KAZAN, Russia: Adam Peaty won the men’s 100m breaststroke gold at the world swimming championships on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) to become Britain’s first world champion in the event for 40 years.
The 20-year-old, who is making his worlds’ debut, swam 58.52 seconds with Olympic champion Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa taking silver at 0.07secs as he lost out to the Commonwealth champion on the wall.
Britain’s Ross Murdoch took bronze at 0.57s back.
Peaty’s gold was his country’s first at a world championships since Liam Tancock won the 50m backstroke in Shanghai in 2011.
He added the world crown to his Commonwealth Games victory in Glasgow last year, when he also beat Van der Burgh.
“I’m really happy with that and Cameron put up a good fight,” said Peaty, who says he is already relishing the pair’s clash at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games next year.
“I’m sure it’s going to be another tough race in Rio.
“It wasn’t the time I expected to do and it wasn’t the time I wanted, but world championship finals and Olympic finals are only about the win and I brought it home tonight.”
Peaty fought for the title, chasing Van der Burgh down hard in the dying stages to nick gold in the final three strokes.
It left the South African to again settle for worlds silver having lost out to Australia’s Christian Sprenger two years ago.
The new world champion admitted seeing Van der Burgh comfortably ahead at the turn had given him extra motivation.
“I turned and saw his [Van der Burgh’s] feet and I was like ‘right, I’ve got some catching up to do now’,” said Peaty.
“Twenty-five meters out he was still in front, so I was a bit skeptical, but I remembered what I had trained for was moments like this and I came out on top—thankfully.
“I was surprisingly relaxed going out there and it has been a help setting the world record in April [in the British trial].
“I was a bit slower going out, but that’s what sport is all about, it could have gone either way.
“I’m glad I have people like Cam to push me on and push the sport forward.”
This is the first time Britain has a world champion in the event since David Wilkie won both the 100 and 200m breaststroke titles at the 1975 championships in Cali, Colombia.
Peaty and Van der Burgh had broken the championship record three times between them in the heats and semifinals in Kazan en route to the finals, which proved to be another battle royal.
“I’m very happy with the performance, but it’s bitter-sweet to lose out on the touch,” said Van der Burgh.
“Congratulations to Adam, but I’m looking forward to the next 365 days of training before the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
“I think it will be a very tight race again and I’m sure he’s also looking forward to putting on another show.”