School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

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26 Jul 2021

Adam Peaty - The elite psychology of an Olympic champion

By now, you’ve probably heard of Adam Peaty.

The 26-year-old Loughborough swimmer has made history in Tokyo by becoming the first Briton to win back-to-back Olympic swimming titles.

Adam continues to dominate in the Men's international Breaststroke and brought home Team GB’s first gold medal at the 2020 Olympic Games.

But how does he consistently perform at the very highest level? And what can he do to ensure he stays at the top of his game?

Ahead of Peaty's gold medal winning performance, Dr David Fletcher, Senior Lecturer in Performance Psychology and Management, spoke as part of the #lboro2tokyo campaign to explain:

“For Adam Peaty, when handling the pressure of an Olympic final, it’s absolutely crucial that he controls the controllables.

“No matter who you are, you’re going to get nervous, particularly when your capabilities are tested, and boundaries are pushed. It’s not a question of getting rid of the butterflies, it’s a question of getting them to fly in formation.”

Dr Fletcher continued:

“There’s the psychology of getting to the top of sport, then there’s the psychology of staying at the top of sport and they’re actually two subtly different things.

“There are all the pressures of being a top-level athlete…you’re there to be shot down and everyone is aiming at you. I think that’s one of the things that is particularly impressive about Adam, the way he’s transitioned into that and maintained his success over the years.

“It’s a real testament to him and his coach Mel (Marshall), as they’ve shifted their focus as part of their training and whatever gets thrown at Adam, be it different competitors, covid, becoming a new father – all these stresses and strains – they’ve clearly given some thought on how they can handle those, and he’s taken them in his stride.”

Loughborough’s dedicated 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games website features all the latest news, videos, and medal tables from Japan.