Rebecca Adlington knows what it takes to do very well at an Olympics and become a new world superstar in the process. She won two gold medals for Great Britain back at the 2008 Beijing Games at 400m and 800m freestyle, breaking the world record for the longer event. She also won two bronze medals at London four years later. Rebecca's now ready and excited to be part of the BBC presenting team for the Tokyo Olympics, giving her thoughts on the races and swimmers alongside her fellow Olympic swimmer Mark Foster and BBC swimming coverage host JJ Chalmers.
It's going to be an all-nighter for Rebecca, Mark and JJ, as the swimming finals begin on the BBC in the early hours of the morning, as sessions from the Olympic pool start from 2-2.30am British time. It's an unusual arrangement of morning finals in Tokyo and heats in the evening, but it's to coincide with prime time television viewing in the US the night before. But Rebecca is quite used to being up through the night these days, having given birth to her baby boy Albie four months ago, younger brother to her six-year-old, Summer. 'Yes sleepless nights are quite the norm for me these days," Rebecca laughs as we chat on the phone, with baby Albie letting out a few cries in the background. "Obviously, we've waited five years since Rio for the Olympics so Mark, JJ and myself are really raring to go! I can't wait for the racing to start."
So here's Rebecca Adlington on what we can expect from the swimming events at the Tokyo Olympics...
Rebecca Adlington on what to expect with all the restrictions and COVID issues going on at the Tokyo Olympics...
Rebecca Adlington says: "I know all the swimmers have had their own kind of isolation for the couple of weeks before heading out to Tokyo. They weren't even able to see family, friends or going out for meals. They were in their bubble just so they were safe, because if they tested positive just before they were supposed to head to Tokyo they wouldn't have been allowed on the plane, so that would have been Olympics over for them. So it has been very difficult and unlike any Games before.
"The announcement that there won't be any spectators now watching the races will make this a very different Olympics too. But the British team are kind of prepared for that. The British OIympic trials and recent European championships were the same and the swimmers did really well with it. They've known for a long time that friends and family can't be there in Tokyo and they're fine with that. They know everyone can watch it from home. That's the main thing, isn't it? Any interview I've heard with a swimmer they say they're just grateful the Games are going ahead.
"Some media are allowed poolside, so we'll have Sharron Davies there, at a distance, getting swimmer reactions to the races, while Mark Foster, JJ Chalmers and myself are back in Britain presenting from the studio."
Can Britain's Adam Peaty be beaten in the 100m breaststroke...
Rebecca says: "No! I don't think he can be beaten. Not unless there’s an utter disaster for him or illness. Obviously, hey, it's the Olympic Games and anything can happen. Nasty surprises can come out the woodwork, but I can't see it happening. Adam’s really focussed on the 100m and so much faster than the rest of the world. While some swimmers have definitely bridged the gap if you like and are slightly closer to him, it’s certainly not substantial enough to make me that nervous. He’s still miles out in front of everyone. Adam is just so happy, content with fatherhood and life, and is confident his training has gone really well. It really is his gold medal, all being well. One of his main rivals is British swimmer James Wilby, and it would be so lovely to see the pair of them on the podium together."
Why do you think Adam Peaty is so much faster than anyone else?
Rebecca says: "It’s down to his athleticism. I mean, there are other athletes that are just the same build and the same height, but with Adam everything is awesome but he has the full package. His mental strength is just immense too, plus his race tactics in keeping his technique and power are spot on. His stroke rate is amazing and how he attacks a race is devastating. We talk about these perfect athletes and you think of people like Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky, and Adam is now one of them. He really is in that bracket where he’s different to anyone else. He just loves to race which helps as well."
Which other British men swimmers have a shot at medals in Tokyo?
Rebecca says: "If all four in the British men's 4 x 100m Medley Relay are on their top game then they do have a chance of winning. They are reigning world champions, when Duncan Scott overtook the American in an epic race and we brought home the gold. He goes again, but what helps us enormously is Adam Peaty on the breaststroke leg being so much faster than the rest of the world! It's important we get a solid lead-off leg on the backstroke. We had Luke Greenbank for this at the World Championships and he has posted some great times recently so that's good. James Guy at Butterfly too has been swimming very fast! I'm very excited about this relay.
"James Guy could be near to a medal in the 100m Butterfly individual event, while Luke Greenbank is getting better at the 200m backstroke, breaking the British record recently, and he could be close to medal success. Luke was only edged out by the Russian swimmer Rylov at the recent European Championships, and Rylov is a favourite for Olympic gold at the event. Duncan Scott has just been amazing. He was a surprise fourth in the Rio 100m freestyle but he's now older and doing more events. He's one of the world's best at 200m freestyle so he really has a chance for gold there, and he has a good shot at a medal for the 200m Individual Medley too. I think he enjoys training on different strokes as it's very hard as an athlete to just focus on one thing all the time, and his skills on all strokes are brilliant. Duncan's such a great racer, too. He has a lot of events so he'll need to manage that well throughout the week."
Which of the British women swim stars will be looking for medals?
Rebecca says: "We're looking at Molly Renshaw in the 200m Breaststroke, Freya Anderson in the 200m Freestyle, and Abbie Wood both the 200m Individual Medley an 200m Breaststroke, though the strength in depth for Britain nowadays is amazing, and I'd like to give a shout out to Anna Hopkin the sprint freestyler who could really surprise us!
"Molly Renshaw in particular has kind of always been on the money and obviously she's got so much more experience than in her last Olympics where she came fourth. Molly has a great chance as she's just totally smashed it up this year at her event and has been so impressive. Abbie Wood too could push her in the 200m breaststroke. Abbie has completely burst on to the scene. In the 200m Individual Medley where she takes over the mantle of Siobhan Marie O'Connor who's retired, she's going really well. There are great Medley swimmers in the world and now Abbie is among them! Freya Anderson is a wonderful relay swimmer and in the 200m Freestyle she always comes back so strongly on the last length. So Freya is definitely one to watch."
Which international swimming stars are set to shine in the Tokyo pool?
"I always look forward to Katie Ledecky's races. She really is an American superstar and packs in loads of freestyle events, from 200m all the way to 1500m, which is new at this Games. She's been one of the amazing stars of our sport since winning the 800m at London 2012 and she holds super-fast world records. It's even more exciting this year as she has a big rival in Australia's Ariarne Titmus who'll be pushing Katie all the way, especially in the shorter 200m and 400m. At the Australian trials Ariarne went faster than Katie has been this year. So it's all set for an epic encounter between the two, a real head-to-head battle. I'd say Katie would be slight favourite in the longer distance races.
"America's Caeleb Dressel is going to win a few golds! He's taken over the Michael Phelps mantle as a world icon and in doing multi events, such as the 50m sprint, 100m freestyle plus 100m Butterfly, and he'll be in a lot of the American relays which are always strong. Caeleb has amazing starts and turns too. His skills are so far ahead of everyone else in the world."
Do you enjoy presenting sport on TV as well as taking part in reality series such as I'm A Celebrity... and Celebrity Masterchef?
Rebecca says: "I love TV work especially when it involves swimming as I'm so passionate about the sport. My main job however is my Learn To Swim programme Becky Adlington Swim Stars. Just to get more and more kids involved in the pool and learning such a crucial skill is so rewarding. So I'll keep hammering on at that as much as I can. But I do love the TV work. Shows like I'm A Celebrity... and Celebrity Masterchef were great. I loved doing them."
Watching swimming at the Tokyo Olympics...
Rebecca Adlington will be part of the BBC's presenting team for the swimming events which run from Saturday July 24 to Sunday August 1. The live finals take place from 2.30am British time, but various highlights shows on BBC1 and BBC2 will of course feature the swimming finals in the following daytime and evening. If you're in the US take a look here Tokyo Olympics: How to watch swimming
* Adam Peaty should be in the final of the 100m Breaststroke at 3.12am (GMT) on Monday July 26.
* Duncan Scott should be in the final of the 200m freestyle at 2.43am (GMT) on Tuesday July 27.
* Abbie Wood should be in the final of the 200m Individual Medley at 3.45am (GMT) on Wednesday July 28.
* Molly Renshaw and Abbie Wood should be in the final of the 200m Breaststroke at 2.41am (GMT) on Friday July 30.
* Luke Greenbank should be in the final of the 200m Backstroke at 2.50am on Friday July 30.
* Duncan Scott should be in the final of the 200m Individual Medley at 3.16am (GMT) on Friday July 30.
* The Great Britain team (with Adam Peaty) should be in the Men's 4 x100m Medley Relay final at 3.36am (GMT) on Sunday August 1.
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