It would seem that Adam Peaty is far more forgiving in his imagination than he is in water. At least in his brain, the other guys are permitted a fighting chance.
As a quirk of motivational psychology, the 26-year-old with one of the most formidable records in all sport has taken to picturing that most of unlikely of scenarios, whereby he is beaten to the wall in a 100 metres breaststroke race.
‘I play it out in my head quite a lot — me losing,’ he told a gathering of British reporters here on Saturday.
Adam Peaty carries more expectation than any other member of Team GB in Tokyo
‘It’s kind of a healthy balance I’ve got in my head, that I do think what it’s going to be like if I touch in second place or third, or whatever is going to be.’
That hasn’t happened in a major championship since 2014, so it would rank among the most enormous of shocks. If there is a greater banker in Japan, with the possible exception of American gymnast Simone Biles, their identity is not immediately clear.
When Peaty takes to his blocks on Saturday, and concludes with his final a week tomorrow, the pertinent question revolves less around whether he will defend the title he won in 2016, and more to do with the prospect of him breaking his own world record.
That stands at 56.88secs, set almost two years ago to the day, and contrary to whatever might be gleaned from his previous musings on defeat, he is not lacking confidence.
The defending Olympic champion boasts one of the most formidable records in all sport
He was outright bullish on his chances of victory and only a little more circumspect on the possibilities of a personal best.
‘I think it’s within my reach if I get my preparation right,’ he said. ‘We’ll see how the heat goes and the semi-final, and then you take it from there.
‘I was going 57.3 (earlier this year at the British Championships). I still had my hairy moustache on and wasn’t really mentally in those championships. We’ve done a lot of power and strength development and leaned down a bit as well. Put those together and I also know I grow 10 per cent, if not more, at an Olympics. I’m in a good place.’
Given he holds 18 of the 20 fastest times in history, and has won 29 major gold medals from Commonwealth Games and up, the Uttoxeter athlete carries more expectation than any other member of Team GB. Yet Peaty carried himself yesterday with the air of a competitor
Swimming phenomenon has considered the unlikely scenario of finishing behind the winner
When asked if he was comfortable amid such considerable pressure, he said: ‘I’d better not bottle it now, hey? I guess it is just a by-product of what I have done over the past seven years. Without sounding arrogant, if you are as dominant as I have been — I haven’t lost a major 100m in a long time — it is nice.
‘I have that history of performing when it matters, and going into these Games I am the most liberated I have been. Let us hope that lightning strike doesn’t hit me. Sometimes the greats do fall. I believe this Olympics is going to be a good one.’
He added: ‘I’ve always said that the mind is the athlete, the body is simply the means. So if you’re not in there mentally, it doesn’t matter.
‘You’ll probably see it in these Games in all sports, people who are popping out these times — yet as soon as you put those athletes in an uncontrollable situation such as the Olympics, where it’s high pressure, they change. That’s the power of the Olympics. I thrive in that arena, I love that arena.’