Three years to the day since winning his first major gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Adam Peaty brought up global title number 16 at Budapest’s Duna Arena on Wednesday evening.
As has become traditional now, Peaty left his rivals trailing in his wake, the winning margin in the 50m breaststroke over half a second as he touched the wall in 25.99.
Unbeaten in a major individual final since Glasgow in 2014, every time the Brit enters the pool, it is almost assumed a victory will follow.
Olympic champion Peaty expects too, and it is a mark of the high standards he now sets himself, that there was initially a flicker of annoyance on his face at missing out on a hat-trick of world records in the event this week by a mere four hundredths of a second.
That soon subsided as Peaty, who returned to the pool an hour later to help the Great Britain mixed 4x100m medley relay team to fifth, was able to look at the bigger picture.
“25.99 makes it official that I’m a 25 swimmer now so that’s good,” said Peaty, who completed the double in Budapest after winning the 100m breaststroke on Monday.
“In a final, there is obviously going to be a little bit more tension, you’re fighting for the title and not the world record.
“Unlike Rio, it’s a very different objective for me. I just wanted to go out there, get the gold.
“When I won Commonwealths, even though I was a young, skinny kid trying to take on the world, the question was whether I could win all the major titles in two years – Commonwealths, European, World and Olympics.
“I didn’t even think about world records, I just wanted those four titles within two years.
“Now I’ve done that, I’ve added an extra year now, got all my titles and world records, got 16 major golds, so over three years that is pretty good for me.
“I missed out on worlds by 0.04 four years ago and that one changed me forever.
“I said to myself after that race that it was never happening again and me and Mel (Marshall) worked very hard and the rest is history.” There would not be a sixth world medal for Peaty later in the evening as Great Britain were unable to defend the mixed medley relay title they won two years ago in Kazan.
With Britain boldly choosing to lead the relay with Georgia Davies – where the more common tactic is to open with two men to swim through clear water – Peaty found himself fighting the waves.
His 57.12 was still comfortably the quickest breaststroke split, while James Guy was also impressive in splitting 50.51 on the butterfly.
But Siobhan-Marie O’Connor could not hang on after going into the final leg in second, with the Brits finishing 0.31 seconds off the podium as the United States claimed gold in a world record time.
On a strong night overall there were British records for Davies, in the 50m backstroke, and Max Litchfield in the 200m individual medley, with both targeting medals in tomorrow’s final. Davies’ 27.49 was enough to beat a record that had stood since the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, while Litchfield broke an even older record.
James Goddard’s effort dated back to the 2009 World Championships, but Litchfield took nearly half a second off that time, his 1:56.64 effort good enough for bronze in Rio last year.
He said: “I’ve not really done the 200m IM before at a senior major international before so to go and do that is fantastic.
“I don’t really know what to say to be honest. I just wanted to hit the first race hard and get in there. To get the British record as well is amazing.”
Litchfield will head into today’s final ranked third, with Davies fourth, while Duncan Scott is another medal contender in the 100m freestyle.
The world’s fastest man coming into the meet, Scott was just off his British record in the semi-finals, going 48.10, although he will likely need to take at least half a second off that to get onto the podium.