Four Years After Shock In Gwangju, Duncan Scott Talks Adam Peaty, Sustained Excellence & “Leader” James Guy
Duncan Scott was left speechless the last time he raced at a World Championships when his 46.14 anchor leg propelled Britain to medley relay gold at Gwangju 2019.
It was the second-fastest split of all-time – behind only Jason Lezak’s 46.06 in the 4×100 free at the 2008 Olympics – as the Scot made up a deficit of 1.11secs on the final changeover to overhaul Nathan Adrian in the final metres.
It was the first time Britain had won the title at 18 editions with the USA having finished atop the podium on 13 occasions.
The quartet of Luke Greenbank (53.95), Adam Peaty (57.20), James Guy (50.81) and Scott set a then European record of 3:28.10, which they subsequently lowered to 3:27.51 en-route to silver at Tokyo 2021, a time matched last year by champions Italy at the Budapest worlds.
Fast forward four years and only Guy and Scott of that triumphant quartet will compete in Fukuoka.
Peaty withdrew to focus on his mental health recovery after which he spoke of having been on a self-destructive spiral.
Three golds among a four-medal Olympic haul plus eight world, 16 European and four Commonwealth titles, Peaty’s impact on the sporting landscape in Britain and beyond is immense.
Scott became Britain’s most-decorated athlete at a single Olympics when he won four medals, including 4×2 gold, in Tokyo.
He acknowledged the hole left by Peaty’s absence in and out of the pool, saying:
“Peaty’s presence is a massive loss to the team: I think that’d be the same as being a part of any team.
“Back-to-back Olympic champion – defending an Olympic title is pretty mad – 16 European titles, the list goes on and what he has achieved on the worlds stage as well.
“To not have him around is a big blow but I wasn’t at worlds last year and the 4×1 medley guys – I was watching from afar and they delivered massively – they had no Peaty and they stepped up massively and managed to come away with a bronze.
“When you have got someone like Peaty to make such a big differential – for the time that he can go – it was incredible to see those boys deliver a bronze medal.
“We’ve got plenty of people willing to step in – (James) Wilby and Greg Butler on the team here – and from a Scottish perspective, Archie (Goodburn) swam great at trials which is good to see.”
Peaty last competed on the international stage at the 2022 short-course worlds and it’s unclear when he’ll return to racing.
Scott looked forward to that day while also pointing to people becoming accustomed to Peaty’s sustained trail-blazing excellence, so much so that it became an expectation rather than a cause for celebration.
“I’d like to think I speak for everyone when we hope that it’s not going to be long until we see him back at his best, back enjoying the sport, back competing and back dominating.
“So it’s been really special, I think we got used to it a little bit too much.
“In Britain we started playing it down, seeing the successes week-in, week-out or each year, him dominating internationally.
“We were just kind of so relaxed and cool about it. You don’t see things like that in sport at all so for him to do it for so long is quite special.
“So hopefully we’ll see him back to his best within the next 12 months.”
Lessons Of Kazan & “Leader” James Guy
Scott missed last year’s worlds as he recovered from Covid and in August was diagnosed with an IgE deficiency which affects the immune system for which he was prescribed antibiotics leading to the longest period of good health for years.
In Fukuoka, the 26-year-old has a solo mission in the 200IM – plus relays – in which he won silver in Tokyo having dropped the 100 free because of a scheduling clash while failing to qualify in the 200 at trials.
Awaiting in the short medley will be defending champion Leon Marchand who Scott will face for the first time plus Olympic champion Wang Shun and British teammate Tom Dean.
There he’ll be looking to add to the single individual medal he has won at world titles, four years after bronze in the 200 free when he became the subject of the now-banned Sun Yang’s explosive temper following the medal ceremony.
“Four years since my last worlds: I am looking forward to it, I’m quite excited. Olympics is the last time I got to race a lot of these world-class athletes so I am buzzing to get my final preparations done and get head to head.
“I feel great: I’ve kind of got that feeling of no fear which is quite exciting. Maybe doing one individual this year maybe isn’t a bad thing at all and trying it out this year.
“It’s something we’ve always spoken about – will I feel fresher when it comes round to the 2IM and hopefully the later rounds in the 2IM? Will I have a little bit more energy for that which could be quite exciting.”
It will be Scott’s fourth World Championships stretching back to Kazan 2015 where he won gold in the 4×2 having swum the heats before being replaced by Guy on anchor for the final, who guided the quartet from third to first.
“2015 was really special for me: my first World Champs and the way the team did it.
“I just did the heat but it was a huge part of my journey because it was disappointment at not being part of a final team but also the realisation of how good this team is and what it could be the following year in 2016 and with its leader in Jimmy.”
Since then Guy and Scott have shared a relay podium on four occasions at two Olympics – including 4×2 gold in Tokyo – and five times at World Championships.
It was Guy who called Scott as “a skinnier version of Michael Phelps” with the latter pointing to the impact of the Bath Performance Centre swimmer who has been on the British team since the 2013 worlds.
“He won the individual worlds in 2015 as well. I think he’s been at the forefront of that – the success in the 4×2.
“You need to look at his relay splits alone just to tell you that but his consistency year in, year out – it’s his 10th year on the 4×2 which is pretty insane and pretty mad.
“He has been at the forefront for everything: he’s led off, he’s gone last, he’s been in the engine room, he’s kind of done it all. He’s a real character and we’re really fortunate to have him as part of this team.”
Longevity, Legacy And Steven Tigg
As a Scottish Swimming Learn To Swim Ambassador, he has long thrown his weight behind the #SaveOurPools campaign which highlights the importance of pools and the leisure sector and aims to secure long-term investment from the government.
For Scott, “swimming has been my whole life” and he credits it with teaching him resilience, determination, consistency and patience as well as leadership skills and humility in victory and defeat during a career that has seen the 26-year-old so far spend nine years at the top table.
He made his senior international bow at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, where he was part of the Scottish 4×2 team that won silver.
Since then he’s added seven Olympic medals, five at worlds, 11 European and 12 at Commonwealth Games to his creaking armoury.
It’s a career of outstanding longevity and he gives “huge credit” to coach Steve Tigg at the University of Stirling.
He told Swimming World:
“I think we’ve both got quite a long-term mindset in the way we like to visualise things, whether it’s two or three years in advance or for prepping for a competition – it might not be the one right in front of us, it might be two or three tapers down the road.
“I’d probably also say my ability to race is really high.
“I’ve not had great preparations into the competitions I’ve had through bouts of illness that have kind of been the downfall of a lot of years in my career I would say.
“But I think no matter what shape I’ve been in going into the competition, just the ability to stand up and race and kind of get the most out of me – because at the end of the day that’s what I love about this sport, the competition element of it.
“I would also say the manner of training we do, it’s not all-in intensity every day and that makes it a little bit more manageable over almost 10 years now.
“It’s been a number of things. I think the key thing that probably sits behind it all is that continuous learning – always trying to better myself.
“For me, there’s been quite a few surprises on the way – I didn’t know I was capable of certain things – and re-evaluating where I am and then being like right, let’s try and better it next year or in two years or three years, this is the target for then.”