Five things you didn't know about Adam Peaty

Olympic gold medallist and world record-holder was once scared of water and has an 'adorable' nan

Adam Peaty
(Image credit: Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Team GB has its first gold medal of the Rio Olympics and a new hero - world record-breaking swimmer Adam Peaty.

The 21-year-old from Uttoxeter, in Staffordshire, was the favourite to win the event, but the manner in which he obliterated the opposition and the world record has made him a star. He finished more than 1.5 seconds in front of Cameron van der Burgh, who took silver, and while at Rio has taken 0.79 seconds off his own world record.

Here are five things you might not know about the UK's first man to win an Olympic swimming gold since Adrian Moorhouse in 1988.

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He was scared of the water:

As a toddler, Peaty was so scared of water he used to shake in the bath and refused to sit down. His mother, Caroline, signed him up for swimming lessons, but he made such a fuss that she couldn't bear to watch.

"When he was four, I started taking him to swimming lessons because his two brothers and his sister had done them and I wanted all my children to be able to swim. But it was breaking my heart to see him scream, so I asked a friend to take him," she told Radio Times.

"Luckily Adam liked it. From then on he took lessons on a regular basis. Mind you, he still doesn’t like the sea, and if he goes in he likes to have shoes on, and wear a knee-length swimsuit. He can’t stand seaweed.”

He was inspired by London 2012:

The legacy of the London Games has been questioned recently but watching the Olympics of 2012 gave Peaty focus.

"The Rio win marks a remarkable transformation for Peaty in just four years and owes a lot to the London Olympics in 2012," says the Daily Mail.

Peaty was already a promising swimmer back then but needed a goal.

"The lightbulb moment came in 2012 when he was preparing to go out and get drunk in a field with some pals, says the paper. "Scrolling through his phone, he saw the results coming in from the Olympic pool and spotted the name of a friend, Craig Benson [who made the semi-finals in the 100m breast stroke]."

"That was the second it all changed," Peaty told the paper. "I thought, 'I am going to do everything I can to get to Rio'."

His coach made him a success

Peaty is coached by Mel Marshall, a former European and Commonwealth champion whose Olympic hopes in the 2004 Games failed to come true. However, she has since become one of the most respected coaches in British sport.

"She first saw him swim when he was 14, just after he’d joined the City of Derby club," says The Guardian. "Peaty was swimming freestyle, badly, plowing his way up and down the slow lane. Marshall didn't reckon much of him until he switched to breaststroke, and then she knew, straight away. She could see it in the strength of his lunge and the steady line he held through the water."

Under Marshall's guidance, the swimmer has become the fastest in the world. "A good coach makes sure you hit your peak in every session you do and knows exactly what buttons to press," says Peaty.

His nan is muscling in on the limelight

South African Chas le Clos was upstaged by his emotional father in 2012. Now Peaty could find himself having to share the limelight with his proud grandmother, Mavis Williams.

The swimmer's mother, father and girlfriend were in Rio to watch his moment of glory, but 74-year-old Mavis was forced to watch on TV - and chronicle the event on Twitter.

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Williams only joined the social networking site in the spring but, using the hashtag #OlympicNan, has attracted 6,000 followers. She was making waves even before the Games when US news site NBC described her as "the most adorable person on Twitter".

He is not only hungry for success

Being an Olympic champion requires a lot of hard work and that means taking on a lot of fuel.

"It is very, very tough to get to this kind of level," Peaty tells the [5] Daily Telegraph.

He does a lot of weight training and often swims with his heart-rate at the absolute maximum.

"On some days you are so tired you can’t even move your eyelids in the morning." he says. "During a tough winter training block I can eat 6,000-8,000 calories a day to fuel all my training and recovery. I have to get through a heck of a lot of food but I try to keep things interesting by eating my protein on a cycle – for example, steak on Monday, chicken on Tuesday, and fish on Wednesday. I get through a lot of scrambled egg and piles of veg and rice too."

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