Lou Turner, Chemistry’s Global Client Director & Head of Partnerships, recently spent some time with British Olympic swimmer, Adam Peaty, who has just won double-Gold at the World Aquatics Championships – and earlier this week broke the 50m breaststroke world record twice in one day. He now holds all the major 100m and 50m titles at the same time – and both world records. Here’s what Lou took away from meeting the 22-year-old champion…
In a world of ‘post truths’ and ‘alternative facts’, I should declare, before I begin, that I am biased. I’m totally passionate about swimming as a sport and swimmers as athletes, so following Adam Peaty’s amazing success at the World Championships over the last few days (double-double Gold, not to mention setting world records almost by the hour!), I thought I would share my reflections on meeting the man himself.
I had the pleasure of spending time with him earlier this year, along with his coaching team, including the National Lead Coach, Melanie Marshall (who is herself a double-Olympian). You may remember that it was Adam who won GB’s first Gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics, where he also broke the 100m breaststroke world record. You may have also read about Adam pursuing Project 56 – wanting to be the first person to swim 100m breaststroke in 56 seconds. To put that in perspective, that’s faster than Johnny Weissmuller’s 100m front crawl world record!
On the day I met Adam, I listened to his journey to Olympic Gold and watched him swim. It took me right back to that amazing night in Rio and reminded me how fantastic it felt, for those two weeks in the summer of 2016, to be British. Most importantly, though, I also watched as Adam and Melanie interacted with 100 performance swimmers, aged 9 and above. What I’d initially thought would be a really interesting day of coaching (which it was), actually turned into something even more inspirational than I could’ve foreseen. Here’s what I took away from the day:
1. Adam is the same person now as he was before his Olympic glory. He reminded me that success requires both integrity and authenticity and that you should never lose sight of who you are and what got you where you are.
2. There are no shortcuts. Believe me, swimmers work hard! You should never confuse greatness with bravado. It’s mastery of technique, sheer hard graft and determination that will always win out in the end.
3. Adam surrounds himself with amazing people and recognises that he could not succeed without them. Even if you are simply an individual contributor, winning and being successful is a team sport – so while you’re still personally responsible and accountable for your actions, you should strive to collaborate and contribute to the collective success. If you fail, it’s simply an opportunity to learn and improve – sometimes it can even be a blessing in disguise.
4. Adam’s number one competitor is himself. You should always be able to look yourself in the mirror and say, with conviction, I did everything possible. Success is about being the greatest version of YOU possible – to quote Adam himself: ‘I’ve achieve my lifetime dream, but I want more. I’m not happy with just Olympic Gold. I want to leave legacy and a world record no-one can ever beat.’
5. Despite how hard he works, Adam clearly loves what he does. Spending time with Adam reminded me that living is about the journey, not the destination. It’s about focusing on the process, because that’s the bit that’s in your control – the outcome often isn’t.
While I recognise that all of the above is what has brought Adam success, I also know they’re not what has brought and will continue to bring him greatness…
…which brings me to the Gold Medal. It’s locked overnight in a safety deposit box. Kept safe so that its owner can inspire another 10-year-old child with the thrill of wearing around their neck. A medal that is dented, with a ribbon already worn and faded, from the hundreds of children who have already been inspired by holding it.
After setting two world records on the same day earlier this week, Adam could be seen mouthing, ‘What have I just done?’ In my opinion, he won’t realise that for years to come – because what he’s doing is truly inspiring children all around the world. Leaving a legacy like that, whilst also pushing himself to achieve Project 56, truly is greatness.
And that is what I learnt from Adam Peaty, the fastest man (in water) on the planet. In a world that feels increasingly uncertain and challenging, why not take our lead from him, and challenge ourselves to pursue and measure greatness, not through numbers, but through the lives we positively impact each day.
Image credit: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil