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Forgetting about world record brings Peaty closer to it

GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — Not thinking about his world record in the 100-meter breaststroke is bringing Adam Peaty closer to breaking it again. The Olympic champion started his quest for a ninth European long-course title on Friday by setting a championship record, bouncing back from a disappointing showing at the Commonwealth Games four months ago.

Peaty won his heat in 57.89 seconds, his seventh fastest time as he remained the only swimmer to beat the 58-second mark. Hours later, he dominated his semifinal to clock 58.04 and comfortably book his place in Saturday's final.

The 23-year-old Briton's heat time was more than seven-tenths of a second short of his best mark of 57.13 from the 2016 Rio Olympics, but he said that was not on his mind. "I'm not talking about 56 (seconds), I'm not talking about world records, I'm just enjoying it," Peaty said.

In April, he won at the Commonwealth Games in 58.84, while his four-year unbeaten run in the 50 breaststroke was ended by South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh. The rare defeat on the Gold Coast left him contemplative.

No wonder he is seeking redemption at the European Championships, and confirmation he is still ahead of the competition with the Tokyo Olympics two years away. "Most athletes need a loss to make sure you get back to winning," he said. "It kind of makes the wins even more valuable and just a little bit better. Getting back to these wins is a great thing."

Even after an Olympic gold, five world and eight European titles, Peaty still feels the burden of expectation. "I have always got that thing on my shoulder, that shroud of doubt in people's minds," he said. "I want to replace that doubt with confidence. I was born to race and in my home arena, that is really where I come to life."

Peaty certainly came to life at Tollcross, where he won silver in the 50 breaststroke for his first Commonwealth Games medal four years ago. "(Coach) Mel (Marshall) said to me, 'make a statement in the morning, don't invest too much emotionally, enjoy it.' I am feeling in very good shape, so who knows what can happen?"

Peaty was slower in the semifinal, but still qualified a massive 1.19 ahead of his closest competitor, Commonwealth Games runner-up James Wilby. "There was no emotion in there tonight," Peaty said. "Tonight was probably a seven-out-of-10 engagement. Tomorrow is all about executing the race that I want to execute. I'll be on my full game."

Fantine Lesaffre of France won the women's 400 individual medley to take the first swimming gold, and was followed by Myhaylo Romanchuk of Ukraine in the men's 400 freestyle. Elsewhere, Italy and Britain won the men's and women's team pursuit titles in track cycling, while world champion Kirsten Wild of the Netherlands added the European title to her collection in the women's 10-kilometer scratch race.

Croatian rower Damir Martin failed to qualify for the semifinals in the men's single sculls. The Olympic silver medalist, who won European gold in 2016 and added silver last year, finished fourth in his race, more than seven seconds behind winner Marko Marjanovic of Serbia.

Belgium's gymnasts pulled out of the team final despite qualifying in third place, citing its focus on the world championships in Doha in October, the first qualifying opportunity for the Tokyo Olympics.

"We start our preparations for the world championships next week and we don't want to risk anything," head coach Marjorie Heuls said.

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