Adam Peaty: 'Faith has helped with mental battles'

3 weeks ago 19

Three-time Olympic swimming champion Adam Peaty says his Christian faith has helped him deal with his mental health struggles and handle the pressures of the upcoming Paris Olympic Games.

The Briton, 29, has taken time out in recent years to deal with periods of depression and alcohol problems.

Peaty says he arrived at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha this week "at peace".

"Sport is not the real world," he told BBC East Midlands Today.

"I spent most of my life kind of validating, getting my gratification or life's fulfilment from my results and that led me to some dark moments.

"And it's really living your life on a quantifiable measure of results, results, results instead of how are the people around me? How am I, how is my son, how is my family?

"All these things actually do matter, it's not about your job, it's not just about performance.

"And to get that, the only place I found it was at church."

It is while he talks of God, his faith and attending Sunday sermons, that the heavily tattooed Peaty points to the latest and most prominent bit of ink on his body.

On his abdomen is a cross with the words "into the light" written bellow it.

"I really didn't have a community outside of sport," Peaty said.

"For me, the only fulfilment and the only peace is every Sunday at church. It gives me a nice balance.

"It is those every day conversations or prayers with myself that keeps me inspired, but also keeps me on the right track that I've got a gift that I will use every single day.

"Why wouldn't I use this gift?"

Peaty, a dominant force in breaststroke events for almost a decade, became the first British swimmer to defend his Olympic title when he took gold in the 100m race at the Tokyo Games in 2021.

He missed the 2022 World Championships because of a foot injury, and was unavailable last year after stepping away from the sport to prioritise his mental health.

During those struggles he spoke about "a gold medal is the coldest thing you wear" and that the multitude of accolades he has amassed - which includes eight World Championship gold medals, 17 European titles and four golds at the Commonwealth Games - were no way to solve his problems.

He says his time away cost him physically, but smiles as he adds "I gained the momentum back mentally".

Peaty now swims with "liberation and freedom" having been forced to re-evaluate his all-consuming approach to success.

"Being an athlete is 365, 24/7," he said. "You will never have that normal aspect of life where you can do what you want.

"And that broke me in half. It had me in tears in the pool, I was like 'this isn't worth it any more, I don't want to do this'."

Even now, having been back in the pool for nine months, he emotionally grapples with the demands of the sport.

But the difference is that he knows just how much of himself he is willing to give.

"You do enjoy it, but you also detest and loathe it sometimes because it takes away from the life you want to live," he said.

"I've been around the block for 19 years, I've been through the highs and been through the lows. To be the best, and truly the best, you have to dedicate 110% of yourself every single hour of every single day.

"And again that comes with its boundaries of hating what you do, but loving it at the same time.

"You have to get that balance right each day, each week and for each championship.

"You have to recognise that and if you go to the Olympics, you have to write a contract with yourself and sign that contract and know if you are going to pay the cost, is that cost going to be worth it?

"And will I be willing to pay that? I don't want to live with the regret that I didn't even try."

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