Adam Peaty will be channelling the attitude of legendary heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson as he bids to land a knockout punch of his own in the pool at this year’s World Championships.
As the reigning Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth champion in the 100m breaststroke, the 24-year-old from Uttoxeter will be the man to beat in Gwangju, South Korea.
Such has been his dominance in the breaststroke, he has been unbeaten over two lengths for five years and holds the world records for both the 50m and 100m distances.
And while Peaty is keen to stress the challenge he faces to retain his titles, he reveals his mindset once he gets into competition mode is much like that of ‘The Baddest Man on the Planet’.
“It’s a World Championships so it’s not going to be a walk through the park, I expect good competition and going into a World Championships that’s what you want,” he said.
“Sometimes if go into a competition and I don’t feel like my position is, not threatened but almost there’s no competition then I can’t get the best version out of myself.
“It’s not really a case of me going in there and saying, ‘I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that’, I’ll see how my body is during the heat and then react and hopefully produce my best in the final.
“When I’m training I like to train like I’m in second, when you’re in second you doubt yourself and that’s almost like a key thing to my motivation – that’s how it’s always been.
“It’s been like that for the last five years and that’s how I train and get the best version of myself, but I think it was Mike Tyson who said, ‘The closer I get to the ring, I tell myself I’m a god’.
“That really fits into the thinking behind what I do, so the closer I get to a World Championships, the closer I get to an Olympics, that’s when my strength comes mentally.
“You almost have to turn it off because otherwise if there’s nothing to eat, you starve yourself really and I like to be going into those swimming meets really mentally fresh.”
Despite being unstoppable in the 100m, Peaty has tasted defeat in the 50m after finishing behind South African Cameron van der Burgh at the Commonwealth Games last year.
But rather than being dispirited about missing out on another gold medal, he insists failure does not scare him and only drives him on in training to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
“I have been undefeated in the last five years in the 100m breaststroke in major championships and that’s kind of unheard of in a sport as volatile as swimming,” he said.
“A lot of people come and go, a lot of injuries come and go, a lot of people come an do fast times and then go, so to stay number one over that period of time is very hard.
“It takes a toll on you mentally, it takes a toll on you physically, but for me motivation is almost passive, I know what I want out of the sport, I know what time I want.
“I know what objectives to hit, whether World Championships or Olympics, at the same time it’s all about longevity for me and choosing when to attack and when to get the best out of myself.
“I think a lot of athletes do fear failure but I’ve failed before, I got beat in the 50m breaststroke before so I’m not immune to losing, no athlete is immune to losing.”
There is also the allure of Project 56 still spurring Peaty on as he continues his push to break his own 100m breaststroke world record and become the first man to break the 57-second barrier.
“World records are the first thing I think of when I’m at the pool and the last thing I think of when I’m out of it because that’s kind of my main motivation now,” he added.
“How do I get below that magic 57, how do I get below my world record and almost do a PB. I know it’s very, very possible but I need to be in the right frame of mind, I need the right body.
“Everything has to go almost perfect but I think I’ve got to that point now where even if it doesn’t I can almost get near it and I’ve had a very good pre-season into a World Championships.”