Adam Peaty wants to see pools stay open to help boost mental health

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Adam Peaty with Cupra 15th September 2021 Derby Photography by Malcolm Griffiths M:07768 230706 E:malcy1970@me.com I:@malcy1970 Adam Peaty with Cupra 15th September 2021 Derby Photography Copyrighgt by Malcolm Griffiths M:07768 230706 E:malcy1970@me.com I:@malcy1970

The Olympic swimmer wants to inspire young people to get back in the pool (Picture: Malcolm Griffiths)

Adam Peaty has urged the government to give swimming extra support as the triple Olympic champion tries to help the sport build on Britain’s success in Tokyo and bounce back from coronavirus.

The swimming superstar, who won his second and third Olympic gold medals in Tokyo this summer, as well as adding a silver, has spent his time since the Games trying to inspire the next generation – and get people back in the pool post-pandemic.

Peaty, who is supporting Metro’s Inside Grassroots Sport campaign, aimed at helping sport recover from a hugely difficult 18 months that included three lockdowns, also has to contend with the small matter of taking part in Strictly Come Dancing.

So just how long off did he have between Olympic glory and dance practice?
‘Nothing. Straight in,’ he replies.

For use in UK, Ireland or Benelux countries only Undated BBC handout photo of Katya Jones and Adam Peaty during the second episode of Strictly Come Dancing 2021. PA Photo. Issue date: Saturday October 2, 2021. See PA story Showbiz Strictly. Photo credit should read: Guy Levy/BBC/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: Not for use more than 21 days after issue. You may use this picture without charge only for the purpose of publicising or reporting on current BBC programming, personnel or other BBC output or activity within 21 days of issue. Any use after that time MUST be cleared through BBC Picture Publicity. Please credit the image to the BBC and any named photographer or independent programme maker, as described in the caption.

Adam went ‘straight in’ to Strictly training after returning from Tokyo (Picture: PA/ BBC)

‘I’ve been busy with so much stuff. I’m exhausted but I believe it doesn’t matter how many Olympic medals you win, if you’re not putting time into the grassroots you’re not inspiring people. The Games is about taking it home, giving it to the people and letting them do what they want to do with it. The journey to being Olympic champion started here. If you’ve got a pool, you can do it.’

Peaty, 26, felt for swimmers whose routine was disrupted by the pandemic. ‘Swimming is one of the most beautiful sports because you’re on your own,’ he tells Metro.

‘When they were closed and there wasn’t access to it, I do think a lot of people’s mental health was affected, if you relied on that for staying fit. Not everyone can stay fit online. It’s had a tough time over the last 18 months – a lot of sports have – but hopefully now pools never close again.’

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A report from Swim England claimed almost 2,000 pools in England could be closed by 2030 without urgent government action, a 40% drop.

And without investment of £1billion, it says there will be a ‘huge decline’ in the availability of pools in a country which has just celebrated a record Olympic haul for British swimmers of eight medals in Tokyo.

Adam recently surprised swimmers at his local pool in Derby (Picture: Malcolm Griffiths)

‘More than ever, we need government support for facilities and help for grassroots,’ says Peaty, who surprised swimmers by putting on a session at his beloved City of Derby club.

‘I was speaking to the manager in my hometown, Uttoxeter, and he was saying they are oversubscribed for swim classes. A thousand spaces in a local town, that’s crazy. That’s a post- Olympic high you don’t want to lose.’

Having made his name with gold in Rio five years ago, Peaty is used to the limelight and so was prepared for Strictly. However, he is well aware of how fame and being the focus of public attention can affect mental health.

Athletes like US gymnast Simone Biles highlighted the issue in Japan and Peaty admits: ‘The conversations are really hard to have. I understand myself and I understand some other people but I can’t help everyone. I get messages from people and I don’t want them to think athletes are unbreakable. That’s not sustainable. There will be many, many more sportspeople saying that. Some people will say, “It’s your job – just do it”. Others will see your point
of view.’

With just three years until the next Games in Paris, Peaty has outlined what he sees as an achievable plan to go out in style. ‘That would be the dream – to win in Paris, win again in 2028 (in Los Angeles) and call it a day. Give someone else a chance. That is the dream and it still burns in me,’ he reveals.

And as for the small matter of that dance show, he is still in it even if the practice schedule appears to trump even that of swimming.

‘It’s been eye-opening but I’ve loved every single second,’ he adds. ‘I am really, really enjoying it. People said I would but I never realised myself until I was actually doing it.’

When the judges vote him out, or he lifts the glitterball trophy with dance partner Katya Jones, Peaty knows what he needs next. ‘A break… I’ve suffered a lot! Every day I wake up and I’m on “attack” and that takes a lot out of a person,’ he says. ‘And sometimes that is solved by sipping a pina colada on a beach.’


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