BUDAPEST: World records have tumbled and gold medals won but the colourful array of tattoos on show at the world swimming championships have proved just as eye-catching, be they designs of sharks, dolphins or even the lion adorning the arm of Adam Peaty’s grandmother.
A vast array of images, script, and secretive symbols adorned the bodies of competitors, from flowing and harmonious waves to powerful and speedy creatures of the deep.
The Olympic rings a proud stamp on the skin of the swimmers who competed at a Games — are also common place, but some of the world’s fastest have explained the thinking behind the art work on their bodies.
Britain’s Peaty has been one of the stand-out performers at the Duna Arena with two world records and golds in the men’s 50m and 100m breaststroke.
Peaty had a large tattoo of a lion inked onto his left shoulder after winning the Olympic 100m breaststroke title last year in Rio de Janeiro.
“The tattoo is more about training for me,” said the 22-year-old in Budapest.
“When you wake up, you look in the mirror and you go to the pool. It reminds me of the hard work I put in to win in Rio, while I am swimming.
“It also keeps me grounded and passionate about what I do, it reminds me of how I got there.
“It is great to have a reminder, it’s getting extended in a few days,” he added without wanting to give away the future design.
Peaty’s wheelchair-bound grandmother, Mavis Williams, 74, got a temporary tattoo, a copy of his lion tattoo, which delighted the British swimmer.
“That was crazy, I actually thought she had had a proper tattoo done, I thought ‘oh my god, what has she done, but she loves it,” said Peaty with a grin.
Bruno Fratus, who took silver in the men’s 50m freestyle on Saturday behind Caeleb Dressel of the USA, explained how his winged tattoo was done on a whim.
“I trust the guy who does my tattoos so badly that I just give him my arms and say ‘do whatever you feel like as long as it’s not too crazy’ as I still got to wear short sleeves,” the 28-year-old told AFP.
‘It’s who I am’
“As long as I have space and money I’ll keep doing it, and time off because every time you tattoo something you need 10 days off water.
“That’s a graffiti I saw in Miami in Wynwood, I just took a picture and give it to him as a reference. That one’s just a wing.
“I woke up one morning and thought ‘I think I would look good with a wing on my arm’.”
His compatriot, Etiene Medeiros won the women’s 50m backstroke gold on Thursday and explained the differing motivations for her tattoos.
“I have an ocean mermaid on my forearm to bring its energy into my life, beneath it a lotus flower, which is rising from the ashes like a phoenix,” said the 26-year-old Brazilian.
“Beneath that, an ‘ohana’ tattoo to remind me how blessed I am to have my family and friends.
“On my ankles, I have the name of my father and mother, I also have other ones which are hidden.”
South African-born Dutch swimmer Kyle Stolk boasts a springbok and an Irish shamrock displayed on a resplendent Dutch flag.
“I wanted to incorporate the three places that have made me where I am today,” said the swimmer, who learned his trade in Dublin, before moving to the Netherlands who he represented at the Rio Olympics.
“It might be a too flamboyant for some people but it means a lot to me, it’s who I am,” he said.