Adam Peaty with historic 100m breaststroke loss at Commonwealth Games | Commonwealth Games 2022

For eight extraordinary years, Adam Peaty has been the indomitable swimmer: unbeatable and impregnable, chasing records and letting others swallow in his slipstream. But on a wild and disordered night in Birmingham, he certainly suffered the biggest shock in Commonwealth Games history when he finished fourth in the men’s 100m breaststroke final.

Fourth! That was the equivalent of swimming Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson. From the US soccer team that beat England at the 1950 World Cup. A moment in which everything we thought we knew about a sport was taken up and thrown around its own axis in a discordant way.

It was mighty close – with England’s James Wilby taking gold in 59.25 ahead of Australia’s Zac Stubblety-Cook (59.52) and Sam Williamson (59.82). Peaty, meanwhile, came home in 59.86 – three seconds off his world record.

True, Peaty had arrived in Birmingham looking dangerously overcooked after breaking a foot in May that left him in a boot and behind schedule. But after victories in his run and semifinals here, nobody expected it. Not when Petty had never lost a 100-meter dash in his senior career.

“It took a broken foot to get it off me,” Peaty said. “But I chose to fight.”

He has. And he went out bravely on his shield.

At first everything seemed to be going according to plan as Peaty led at 20 yards and started his usual climb at 30. But this time there was no muscular separation from the pack. At the turn, the 27-year-old was still leading, but only by 0.13 seconds, and his pursuers felt blood.

Peaty, the ultimate alpha male of the swim that long, tried to hold her back, but when he had 25m to go he was swallowed. First Wilby passed him. Then Stubblety Cook. Before that, right at the finish, Williamson snatched the bronze away from him as well.

“I felt really good up to 50m,” admitted Peaty. “I just don’t know what went wrong. 25m before the finish I had nothing left in the tank. I felt good, but it’s two seconds slower than the Olympics. Something has obviously gone fundamentally wrong in this cycle.”

Interestingly, Peaty also spoke of a “big reboot,” before adding, “There’s obviously a lot wrong with my training program. But sometimes, if you don’t race all season, it bites you when it counts.”

This was his first loss in the 100m breaststroke since moving up to the senior ranks in 2014. During that time he has won three Olympic gold medals, eight world titles and nearly two dozen European and Commonwealth medals.

Last but not least, he also holds all 20 best times in history – with nobody else breaking 58 seconds, and has also broken 14 world records to boot. But none of that mattered on that crazy night in Birmingham.

England’s Alice Tai won gold six months after her right leg was amputated below the knee. Photo: Tim Goode/PA

“It was a very slow final for me,” said Peaty, who will now compete again in the 50m heats on Monday. “I can’t even remember when I drove so slowly. Of course it’s a shock. That’s disappointing, of course, but that’s where you have the moments to go faster next time.”

Wilby, on the other hand, rightly reveled in his breathtaking excitement. “I’m overwhelmed and amazed,” he said. “I always followed him. He’s a phenomenal athlete and he’ll probably kick my ass later in the calendar. But I’m proud of that.” And that’s the way it should be.

Meanwhile, there was more success for England in the S8 100m backstroke as Alice Tai took Gold in 1:13.64, six months after her right leg was amputated below the knee due to a deterioration in her clubfoot.

England also took bronze in the 4x200m freestyle relay behind Australia, who stormed to gold with a new world record time of 7:39.29, and Canada, who took silver.

Earlier in the evening, South Africa’s Chad Le Clos broke the record for most medals at the Commonwealth Games – 18 – when he took silver in a thrilling men’s 200m butterfly.

The 30-year-old was leading into the final 20 meters when he was passed by Lewis Clareburt, who clocked the win in 1:55.60. England’s James Guy took bronze.

However, Clos, who has won his 18 medals at three Commonwealth Games, wasn’t too disappointed. “We both knew what the other was going to do, but fair play to Lewis,” he said. “It’s always kill or be killed when I race.”

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