5 of Britain’s other swimming greats after Adam Peaty makes Olympic history

Peaty became the first British swimmer to retain an Olympic title.

Pa Sport Staff
Monday 26 July 2021 03:35
Adam Peaty celebrates his achievement (Adam Davy/PA)
Adam Peaty celebrates his achievement (Adam Davy/PA)

Adam Peaty became the first British swimmer to retain an Olympic title after powering his way to victory in his beloved 100 metres breaststroke at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

There is a strong argument to be made that this achievement alone puts Peaty in a bracket of his own among his compatriots, without factoring in the stat he is unbeaten in the distance in major competitions over the distance.

Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the other great British swimmers.

Rebecca Adlington

Rebecca Adlington won two golds at Beijing 2008 (Gareth Copley/PA)

The Mansfield swimmer claimed a historic double gold at Beijing 2008 as a 19-year-old before bagging a pair of bronze medals four years later at London 2012. Her triumph in the women’s 400m freestyle in China was Britain’s first gold medal in the pool in 48 years and her coronation as 800m freestyle champion later on in the Games saw her become the first swimmer to win more than one medal at a single Olympics in exactly a century.

Duncan Goodhew

Duncan Goodhew prevailed in Moscow 31 years ago (Carl Court/PA)

Distinguishable due to his alopecia, the former Millfield School pupil surged to 100m breaststroke gold at the 1980 Moscow Games at the height of the Cold War boycotts. The Londoner edged out the Soviet Union’s Arsens Miskarovs by just under a half second in what was indisputably the finest moment of his career. Alongside Gary Abraham, David Lowe and Martin Smith, Goodhew collected bronze for Britain in the 4x100m medley relay later in the Games.

David Wilkie

David Wilkie won one gold and two silvers in his Olympics career (PA)

The Sri Lanka-born Scot collected silver in the 200m breaststroke at Munich 1972 before going one better four years later in Montreal where he registered a new world record of two minutes and 15.11 seconds. It was a benchmark that would stand for the next six years before being broken by Canada’s Victor Davis. The mustachioed Wilkie, a multiple-time world champion, had been edged out into second in 1972 and then over 100m in the same discipline in 1976 by John Hencken but the Briton had his revenge over his American rival later in the Games in Canada.

Anita Lonsbrough

Anita Lonsbrough, with her Olympic gold medal for the women’s 200 metres breaststroke (PA)

The last British woman to win gold in the pool before Adlington. The Yorkshire swimmer’s finest moment came at Rome 1960, when, aged 19, she recorded a new world record time of two minutes and 49.5 seconds to claim victory in the 200m breaststroke final. That mark would stand for 12 months before being broken by East Germany’s Karin Breyer. She did not defend her title at Tokyo 1964, instead competing in the women’s 400m individual medley, reaching the final and finishing seventh.

Henry Taylor

British swimmer, Henry Taylor, having just won the men’s 400m freestyle (PA)

The Lancastrian’s British record of three golds at a single Games stood for a century before being equalled by cyclist Sir Chris Hoy at Beijing in 2008. Taylor could count on home support at London 1908, where he first prevailed in the men’s 400m freestyle, finishing nearly eight seconds clear of silver medallist Frank Beaurepaire. Alongside John Derbyshire, William Foster and Paul Radmilovic, Taylor clinched victory in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay before, a day later, defeating compatriot Thomas Battersby to win the men’s 1500m freestyle in a world record time.