THERE is, admits Ross Murdoch, nothing quite like being the underdog. He is well familiar with holding such status, with his Commonwealth gold in 2014 ranking as one of the great underdog wins of recent years.
However, four years and a shelf-full of international medals later, the tag of underdog is now long gone for Murdoch. And as he prepares to return to the very pool that made his name four years ago, the 24-year-old acknowledges it is unlikely that he will ever have the luxury again of flying under the radar, nor does he particularly want to return to those days.
“Being Scottish, you grow up being the underdog,” he said.
“Anything you watch on television, you want the underdog to win and when that does happen, it’s brilliant. So I think that’s the ideal situation for anybody.
“So it’d be fun to be in that position again but I don’t think I’m ever going to be. And that’s the pressure I put on myself, I don’t want it to be like that again because I want to prove to myself that I’m good enough to hold form throughout the years.”
In exactly three weeks, Murdoch will begin his assault on the Glasgow 2018 European Championships and as defending champion in the 200m breaststroke, he has an almighty target on his back for every other swimmer to shoot at.
The University of Stirling swimmer is in good form this year having already won silver at the Commonwealth Games three months ago. However, the level of competition in Glasgow will be a significant step up from that which he was up against in Australia but he is, he believes, ready for the fight.
“The European Championships and the Commonwealth Games are very different competitions,” the Glasgow 2018 ambassador said.
“In some respects, the Commonwealth Games is more difficult with the Travelling and the heat and everything whereas Glasgow is a lot more familiar but the competition will be a lot more challenging in terms of the depth.
“At the Commonwealth Games, the top five guys are pretty strong but at the Europeans, the top 16 are all incredibly strong so even just making it from the semis to the final is not going to be easy.
“Since Gold Coast, things have been going pretty well. My in-season swims have been pretty promising in terms of putting everything together. The times haven’t been all that special but it’s the way I’ve put those times together that has been good. So the process has been going really well.”
And the Scottish crowd could, he believes, be in for something special in a few weeks.
“Some people say that the Glasgow pool isn’t fast, that’s it’s only 2 metres deep and you need it to be 3 metres but I 100 percent believe that a world record can be set in that pool and that it’s one of the fastest pools in the world.
“And it’s louder than any venue I’ve ever been in – it’s very intimate and the crowd are on top of you. In a lot of places, you’re not conscious of that but Glasgow is the loudest place I’ve ever swum.”
Murdoch has had something of a rollercoaster journey since his Glasgow 2014 triumph, failing to qualify for his specialist event at the Rio Olympics, although he was a part of Team GB for the 100m breaststroke. In the aftermath of the 2016 Olympics, he admitted he contemplated hanging up his goggles for good but he persevered and has, he admits, rediscovered his motivation. That doesn’t mean every session is a breeze but there is one thing that pushes him through the hard sessions and that’s envisaging himself being presented with a gold medal in Glasgow in a few weeks time.
“I definitely feel a lot better than I did then,” he said of the aftermath of Rio.
“There’s still days when I feel like I really don’t want to be here but every sportsperson goes through that.
“I definitely think about standing on the top of the podium in Glasgow though – it helps when you’re in training and you picture it being your last 50m and you touch the wall and you’ve won again. That’s what helped me before Glasgow the last time. You’ve got to let yourself dream because if you don’t do that, there’s no fun in it.”
Source : HeraldScotland