Adam Peaty stayed on course to become the first British swimmer to retain an Olympic title after sailing into the final of the men’s 100 metres breaststroke alongside compatriot James Wilby.
The 26-year-old from Uttoxeter is overwhelming favourite to defend the crown he won in Rio five years ago and he recorded the fastest qualifying time in the semi-finals, clocking 57.63 seconds at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
Wilby also booked his spot in Monday’s final – where all eyes will be on whether Peaty can better his world record time of 56.88secs – after finishing third in the other heat with a time of exactly 59 seconds.
There were to be no swimming medals for Team GB on Sunday, with Max Litchfield finishing an agonising fourth in the men’s 400m individual medley, Aimee Willmott placing seventh in the corresponding women’s final and the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team of Lucy Hope, Anna Hopkin, Abbie Wood and Freya Anderson settling for fifth.
But Peaty, who is unbeaten over this distance in seven years, finished more than half a second clear of closest challenger Arno Kamminga, the only swimmer other than Peaty to breach the 58-second barrier in this event.
Peaty said: “I knew what I needed to do. It really is about swimming in the semi-final. It’s not really about proving anything, putting any little markers down because I know a lot of energy (is needed) in the final.
“Every day has new challenges, new victories. As long as the sun rises and my eyes are open anything can happen. Obviously Olympic finals are Olympic finals but I’m the best racer in the world and I’m looking forward to it.
“I love to race, I’m a scrapper and I know when it comes down to the last 15 I’ve got something no one else has got. It’s just seeing how that replicates in the final.”
There was some speculation the swift turnaround between Saturday evening’s heats and Sunday morning’s finals session may have inhibited all competitors and Peaty admitted he has found it challenging to adjust.
He said: “It’s very strange, very strange. It’s definitely new. I’m just adapting to it, I guess.
“We’ve obviously tried to race as much as we can, trying to put an emphasis on the heats in the morning to replicate a final but there’s only so much you can do.
“When you come to the Olympics, you’ve got way more walking, you’ve got to wait longer for food, wait longer for races. It’s all about controlling the controllables but enjoying that ride at the same time.”
Peaty, sporting a clean shaven look after sporting a moustache in Saturday’s heats, reiterated how peculiar he has found the last couple of days without the usual cheering throng of supporters.
He added: “It’s very different out there, it doesn’t feel like an Olympics, which is very strange because you think you can come here and rely on that ‘oomph’.
“But there’s not many people in the crowd because they’re all athletes, coaches and media, which is very different. But I know in the final I’m going to have to try and make my own story up.”
Naomi Osaka returned to the tennis spotlight on and off the court with victory over China’s Zheng Saisai in the opening round in Tokyo. Two days after lighting the Olympic flame to cement her status as the face of the Games, Osaka was out in an empty stadium for a 6-1 6-4 victory. The 23-year-old last played a match eight weeks ago before pulling out of the French Open on […]