Adam Peaty is the world’s best swimmer but even he can be beaten, his friend and Team GB rival James Wilby has warned, as the pair prepare to meet at the British Swimming Selection Trials.
Peaty, the Olympic champion, holds the 100m breaststroke world record of 56.88sec and no one else in history has broken 58 seconds. But Wilby, who finished second at the 2019 world championships behind his teammate, insists he will not be swimming for second at the Aquatic Centre in London this week.
“I think he’s the best in the world,” said Wilby. “It is challenging swimming against him, certainly. But every athlete can be beaten at some point. The classic one is Michael Phelps: in the 100m butterfly in Rio and three absolute legends ended up getting joint silver and Joe Schooling got the gold. Everyone can be beaten – but it takes a perfect race.”
But Wilby, who has been pre-selected for Tokyo, insists his rivalry with Peaty is a friendly one. “The way I describe it is it’s very fun in the sense that there is an element of racing each other throughout the season but, internationally, we can also get the GB flag one and two,” he said. “We get on well. He is a good laugh. And if someone is going to be further up the rankings, you want it to be someone from Great Britain.”
Wilby, who will race over 100m and 200m in London, admitted it had been tough during the lockdown but said he was relishing the prospect of his first Olympics. “We won’t have had a big summer competition for two years by the time we get to the Olympics. I’ll be all guns blazing and I’m sure everyone else will be.”
The 27-year-old believes that Britain’s swimming squad has the potential to surpass their Rio 2016 medal haul of six in Tokyo. “This has the potential to be an absolutely phenomenal team,” he added.
Others to watch out at the trials, which begin on Wednesday, include the 200m backstroke world bronze medallist Luke Greenbank– like Peaty, he is coached by Mel Marshall – and Duncan Scott, a silver medallist in the men’s 4x200m and 4x100m medley relay events in Rio.
Meanwhile on the women’s side, Freya Anderson is among a trio of brilliant young swimmers looking to book their place to Tokyo. The 20-year-old freestyler will be looking for individual and relay success at the Olympics, while the backstroker Kathleen Dawson and the individual medley swimmer Abbie Wood have also enjoyed breakthrough seasons and have the potential to be in the mix at the Olympics.