London: Virtually untouchable when on song, breaststroke king Adam Peaty spearheads a potent British team when the world swimming championships begin on Sunday in Gwangju, South Korea.
The world record holder over 50 and 100 metres, Peaty will be the favourite to retain his world titles but Britain’s supporting cast also contains plenty of quality.
Duncan Scott is a sure-fire medal contender after backing up his gold in the 100m free at last year’s Commonwealth Games by bagging the 200m freestyle title at the 2018 European championships.
European champion Ben Proud should be in the mix in the 50m free, while James Wilby looks to hang on to Peaty’s shirt tails in the 100m breaststroke after silver medals at the Commonwealth and Europeans.
But Peaty remains the Britain’s biggest draw after leading them to second place in the medals table at the last world championships in Budapest two years ago.
The Brits won four gold medals, a silver and two bronze to finish behind the United States, albeit by a huge margin.
Peaty has romped to 50m and 100m breaststroke gold at each of the last two world championships and in between captured a maiden Olympic gold in the 100m in Rio.
But fuelled by his first defeat in the 50m in nearly four years at the Commonwealth Games, the 24-year-old wants to set new heights by taking down his own world records.
“Even if you are the best in the world, you can still be beaten. I think that’s the most valuable lesson,” said Peaty of that shock defeat on Australia’s Gold Coast.
He responded by lowering his own 100m world best record to 57.10 seconds at the European championships.
His 50m record of 25.95 seconds could also go, Peaty believes.
“I definitely think it is humanly possible,” he told the BBC. “I want to put on a show.”
According to reports from his training camp at Loughborough University, world records are routinely being broken when no one is watching.
As the first British male swimmer to win Olympic gold since 1988, Peaty is the poster boy for the sport in his home country.
But he is also aware that his star power means there is a target on his back for others to catch.
“Once you’re at the top you’ve got to keep that spot,” Peaty told magazine Men’s Health. “I’ve been at the top now for five years. It’s a long time to stay on top without getting beaten.”
In the women’s events, Britain will look to the likes of Siobhan-Marie O’Connor to step up in the individual medleys and Commonwealth champion Alys Thomas in the 200m butterfly.
Peaty, though, will be the man the others looks to provide the spark for the British team in Gwangju.
“I don’t just want to win — I want to dominate,” he said after his latest world record. “That’s not an arrogant side, it’s just the competitive side in me.”