Adam Peaty’s four-year winning run ends at Commonwealth Games

• English swimmer suffers first defeat since 2014 Games in Glasgow
• Cameron van der Burgh takes gold in 50m breaststroke

Adam Peaty leaned into Cameron van der Burgh’s lane and gave him a warm handshake after the South African ended a four-year winning sequence by beating the Englishman to Commonwealth gold in the 50m breaststroke.

The difference between the pair touching the wall was four hundredths of a second but that gap released one of the strongest strangleholds in world sport. It was Van der Burgh who last beat the 23-year-old over 50m in long course at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014.

Peaty is a different animal now, decorated with 27 senior titles and, before Monday evening on Australia’s Gold Coast, had been considered by experts as nigh on unbeatable. He holds the seven fastest times in history over the distance and even his rivals admit he has transformed the discipline with his distinctive full throttle stroke. The former world champion Mark Foster believed Peaty had victory assured just by being on the starting blocks. But at a Games where the hottest of English favourites, including the Brownlee brothers and Max Whitlock, have fallen by the wayside, that sort of presumptuousness is ill-advised.

By Peaty’s own standards it was a sluggish swim as he failed to overhaul Van der Burgh, who won in 26.58sec to Peaty’s 26.62. Another Englishman, James Wilby, won his third individual breaststroke medal, with bronze in 27.37.

Peaty, who is a double world champion in the 50m breaststroke, was magnanimous in defeat, to the delight of his mother, Caroline. “I’m glad your upbringing is showing through,” she tweeted. “True sportsmanship, very proud of you.”

Peaty did not make excuses but reasoned that swimmers do not usually train to peak in April. He described the contest as “probably one of the worst feeling races I’ve ever done”. He said: “Even though it’s a silver, I’m more happy with that silver than I was with the gold the other day. It gives me a reality check. Even if you are the best in the world, world record holder, you can still be beaten. I think that’s the most valuable lesson.”

Despite winning gold in the 100m breaststroke, the event in which he is Olympic champion, Peaty admonished himself for his performance. The 50m is not an Olympic distance but he is still the standout performer, his 25.95 world record more than half a second faster than the next quickest man, João Gomes, a Brazilian who had previously served a six-month ban for testing positive for a banned diuretic.

Peaty said he had felt slightly below par. “Some people have down days and this was a down day for me,” he said. “I was probably working at 90, 95%. But to win races like that, when it comes down to a very fine margin, I need to be 100%. As an athlete, obviously I’m disappointed. I’ve never had a 50m Commonwealth title. I’ve had the rest but not this one. Away from the actual racing, I’m so happy for Cam. I gave my best out there and Cam gave better. That’s just the way it is.”

Before the Games began the English swimmer Lizzie Simmonds accused British Swimming of overlooking older swimmers when they are allocating funding. But the Welshwoman Alys Thomas went some way to proving the pool is not the preserve solely of the super young. The 27-year-old shaved two seconds off her personal best time to win gold in the 200m butterfly in 2:05.45, a Games record.

Thomas made her major international debut only last year, at the world championships, and also had to battle a partisan crowd in the Optic Aquatics Centre as she held off the challenge of the Australian duo of Laura Taylor and Emma McKeon, who took silver and bronze respectively.

“I couldn’t see anything,” Thomas said. “My goggles were smudged up so I just swam my own race. I bet my coach if I did this I could shave his head so I guess I’m shaving his head. I’m 27 and this is my first major international medal. I’m finally breaking through now. It says something about being patient when you’re young.”

Away from the pool England continued their dominance in the gymnastics. Nile Wilson won his third gold medal of the Games with victory in the men’s high bar. His score of 14.533 was half a point down on his qualifying mark but still enough to beat team-mate James Hall, who shared silver with Canada’s Cory Paterson.

It means the 22-year-old will leave Australia with five medals, having also won silver on the parallel bars on Monday.

Alice Kinsella claimed gold in the beam. The 17-year-old, who is the daughter of the former Republic of Ireland footballer Mark Kinsella, finished ahead of Australia’s Georgia-Rose Brown and her English team-mate Kelly Simm, who took bronze.

Contributor

Martha Kelner on the Gold Coast

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