LONDON — Triple Olympic swimming champion Adam Peaty said he took a break from the sport to halt his “endless search” for rewards but the Briton hopes he will be in a better mindset at the Paris Games next year.
Peaty said in March that he was tired and not enjoying swimming as much as before as he pulled out of the British championships in April to focus on his mental health.
The Briton, who also missed the 2022 world championships in Budapest after fracturing a bone in his foot, has previously spoken about periods of depression and problems with alcohol.
“I took a break because I was on this endless search of a gold medal or a world record and I looked into the future and I said, ‘OK, if I do get that is my life fixed or any better?’ No,” Peaty said according to Reuters.
“So take the time now to really think about who you are, what you want out of life and then get the gold medal. Hopefully when I get to the Olympics I will be in a very good mindset, very grateful and most importantly happy.
“As athletes our brains are wired a little bit differently, we’re constantly chasing reward and if we can see that reward we will work extremely hard for that reward,” added Peaty, who won two gold medals and a silver at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and holds the 50m and 100m breaststroke world records.
“For me it was something that I was constantly chasing and constantly doing and I was like, ‘I don’t want this in my life, I don’t really want to do this all the time.'”
Peaty said he had come to an accommodation with his own desires for improvement and the need to retain perspective.
“It’s about getting the conversation right,” he said, “that we have to show resilience, we have to show perseverance. At the same time it’s OK to sometimes feel like you’re down. For me, I don’t use that as an excuse for my performance, though it’s really hard to detach. It’s really hard to separate the athlete from the human but you’ve got to put the human first.”
With 14 months to go until the Paris Olympics, Peaty said he was in a stage in in his preparation where “the psychological load is quite low” and he was able to think about his aspirations, in the pool and beyond, before fully returning to training in September. As for achieving gold at three consecutive Olympics, a feat managed only four times before in the pool and only once by a man, Michael Phelps, Peaty remained sanguine.
The reason the “three-peat” remains such a rare achievement, he said, is that it takes “a very long time” to achieve. “There’s no reason why [it can’t be done] but I think a lot of people either retire or they get burned out but keep going for no reason and they don’t get the result that they want.