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Adam Peaty returns to swimming worlds after mental health break, not focused on medals

Brit Adam Peaty finished third and fourth in his two individual events at the world swimming championships, the first global championship for the fastest breaststroker in history since the Tokyo Olympics.

Peaty placed fourth in the 50m breast on Wednesday after earning bronze in the 100m breast on Monday. He is the world record holder in both events, though the 50m is not on the Olympic program.

Peaty, the 100m breast gold medalist at the last two Olympics, missed worlds in 2022 due to a fractured bone in his foot and in 2023 after not entering a trials meet, citing mental health.

In interviews over the last 10 months, he said he had dealt with depression.

SWIMMING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

“It’s been an incredibly lonely journey,” Peaty said last April, according to the Times of London. “The devil on my shoulder says, ‘You’re missing out on life. You’re not good enough. You need a drink. You can’t have what you want. You can’t be happy.’”

Peaty told the BBC going into worlds in Doha that he is now at peace and that “the results will be what they will be.”

He felt encouraged after Monday’s 100m breast where he took bronze behind American Nic Fink and Italian Nicolo Martinenghi.

He clocked 59.10. His world record from 2019 is 56.88.

“It’s bittersweet because we didn’t come here for medals,” he said, according to British Swimming. “I wasn’t really too fussed about aiming for those medals because that’s just not the target, we’ve come off a hard bank of work.”

“Little bit disappointed with the time, but I’ve got to put it into perspective,” Peaty told World Aquatics. “I haven’t done a heats-semis-finals in a while.”

In Peaty’s absence last July, China’s Qin Haiyang won the world title in 57.69 seconds to become the second-fastest man in history.

Qin is not competing in Doha this week. Many stars passed on these worlds, the first held in an Olympic year, to prioritize training for the Paris Games.

For Peaty, competing on a global stage for the first time in two and a half years is important prep.

“Sometimes for me, in this time of season, a failure is a good thing,” the 29-year-old said after the 100m breast bronze. “It makes me tune up that little bit more, and we’ll see where that pushes us towards trials and then Olympics, but a lot of learning still to go.”

Also Wednesday, Daniel Wiffen became the first Irish swimmer to win a world championships medal — gold in the 800m free.

American Bobby Finke, the Olympic gold medalist, skipped worlds. Tunisia’s Ahmed Hafnaoui, the 2023 World champion, was 18th in Tuesday’s heats. Hafnaoui, Australian Sam Short and Finke remain the world’s fastest men in the 800m free in this Olympic cycle.

Siobhán Haughey became the first swimmer from Hong Kong to win a world title, taking the 200m free after earning silver at the Tokyo Olympics. Australians Mollie O’Callaghan and Ariarne Titmus, the world and Olympic champions and fastest women in this Olympic cycle, skipped worlds.

Japan’s Tomoru Honda won the 200m butterfly in the absence of reigning Olympic champion Kristof Milak of Hungary and 2023 World champion Leon Marchand of France. Milak and Marchand remain the two fastest men in this Olympic cycle.

The U.S. won the mixed-gender 4x100m medley relay with Hunter Armstrong (backstroke), Fink (breast), Claire Curzan (fly) and Kate Douglass (free).

Worlds continue Thursday with finals live on Peacock at 11 a.m. ET. A highlight race is the men’s 200m IM, where Americans Carson Foster and Shaine Casas were fastest in the semifinals.

Fink adds bronze medal in men's 50m breaststroke
Nic Fink followed up his gold medal in the men's 100m breaststroke at the 2024 World Aquatics Championships in Doha, Qatar by securing bronze in the 50m breaststroke for his second podium of the competition.