Ross Murdoch admits the road to redemption has incorporated a few bumps and, on occasion, sent him juddering through a perilous pothole. Missing out on a medal in August’s European Championships in Glasgow, just a few elongated lengths from his home, was jarring. More due to the final position, he reflects, than the quality of the performance.
Yet British Swimming retained the 24-year-old on their Lottery funding list, a vote of confidence that he can still plot a course towards success at Tokyo 2020. “I took an extra week off to get my head clear and back into things,” the Scot reveals. Then back down to business. Five months out from a world championship trials which will spirit him speedily back to Tollcross, he and his coach Steve Tigg have set the satnav for Japan and vowed to retain absolute faith.
An initial small down-payment was repaid last night when Murdoch claimed the 50 metres breaststroke title at the Scottish short course championships in Edinburgh, setting a Scottish record of 26.56 seconds in his heat before emerging triumphant from the final.
Positive signs, if imperfect as a long-term barometer. “It’s hard to predict anything off a short course season because form is temporary,” he reflected. “You can hit it here but next week, I might be worse.”
This is a process: mechanical tweaks here, mental fixes there. “I’ve not been patient. I’ve been a baby. My coaches have showed a lot of patience with me. I don’t throw my toys out of the pram now. But I want things fast. And they’ve helped me with problem-solving, which has been quite stimulating.”
At what for many at the Royal Commonwealth Pool is an initial testing bed on a pathway directed at next July’s worlds in South Korea, experimentation allows craft to be honed and a respite to be taken from the graft of training away from prying eyes.
Duncan Scott’s bar is now set so high that every marginal gain must be hard-won. 2018 brought the 21-year-old first Commonwealth, then European gold. Ultimately, the ambition is to upgrade from the Olympic silvers he earned in Rio come Tokyo time.
Here, he took victory in the 100 metres butterfly, then lowered the Scottish record in the 100m individual medley before rounding off his session by helping Stirling University to 4×50 medley gold.
Today will test his energies to the full, darting back to the pool after sitting a business studies exam towards his university degree. He will hope for top marks then. A harsh self-critic, this felt short of a prime grade.
“I’m not really happy with it all,” he said. “Two years I ago, I swam here and was faster in the butterfly but my preparation was a lot different this time. I’ve got the 200 fly next so there’s a couple of things I might change.”
Scott was due to jet to Italy this month to compete in the inaugural edition of the International Swimming League before what was deemed a renegade and unsanctioned event was cancelled amid threats from FINA, the sport’s world governing body, that bans might be imposed on those taking part.
Noises have been made about a constructive response to criticism from swimmers that compelling contests must be created to showcase their wares. “Their attitudes are obviously starting to change,” said Scott, “That’s what this Turin event was all about, being the catalyst for future events.”
Elsewhere, Jack Thorpe pipped Scott and Scott McLay to 50m freestyle gold after lowering his own Scottish record to 21.55 sec in the heats. While Keanna Macinnes set a Scottish best of 2:07.21 in the 200m butterfly final.
Source : HeraldScotland