Adam Peaty eased into the semi-finals of the men’s 100metres breaststroke with the most comfortable of wins on day one at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
The defending champion is about as strong a shoo-in as Team GB has for gold and showed no reason to detract from such a suggestion as he touched the wall well clear of the rest of the field in 57.56seconds.
It was the eighth quickest time in history and Peaty owns the seven above that.
Five-time British Olympian Mark Foster had said that only Covid could derail Peaty’s chances of gold while, such is the Briton’s confidence, the athlete himself suggested a false start was the one major stumbling block between him and further cementing his status as the greatest breaststroke swimmer of all time.
From the gun, the 26-year-old had a strong start and was quickly into his rhythm, using the physiological advantages of his turned-out feet and hyperextended knees to good effect.
Much like with Usain Bolt in his prime, even before the start most knew they were probably fighting for second place - a few strokes and leg kicks later merely cemented that fact.
There was the novelty of noise coming from the stands to go with it. Despite the lack of spectators, there was raucous support from a bank of American and German team members, cheering and clapping along to the night’s action despite a seeming ban on such actions in the extensive Covid rulebook for these Games.
And yet he said the occasion didn’t feel right: “There is no crowd, it doesn’t feel like an Olympics. It’s not the same. I had no idea how it was going to feel out there. I’m glad the cobwebs are out now.”
For Peaty, there is a quick turnaround, less than 15 hours between his heat and semi-final, which comes with it the same expected outcome.
On a relatively flat opening day for Team GB in which they came away empty handed on the medal front - in truth, there had been few chances on Saturday bar the men’s cycling road race going entirely to plan for the four British riders - it was a welcome boost.
The hope is that Britain does not have to wait for Peaty to provide the nation with a first home gold as he did in Rio de Janeiro five years ago, with Jade Jones in the taekwondo arguably the best gold-medal hope on Sunday.