IN Delhi three years ago, the cement had barely set at some venues when the Commonwealth Games began. Glasgow 2014 will face no such problems: 70 per cent of the locations were already up and running when the bid was won six years ago, and the refurbished Tollcross Pool is about to join them, 15 months before the Games get under way.
The advantage for Scotland’s swimmers is obvious: by the time competition begins, they will feel totally at home. Robbie Renwick, who will defend his 200 metre freestyle title next year, is just one of those who is delighted by the benefits that the newly-redeveloped venue will bring.
“It’s great that we can get in a year early and get used to the pool,” the 24-year-old said. “It’s going to give us a great head start on all the other competitors. When it comes to the big event nothing is going to be unfamiliar or foreign to us.”
The British record holder, Renwick was sixth in last year’s Olympic 200m final, ahead of the only other Commonwealth competitor who qualified, Australia’s Thomas Fraser-Holmes. Expectation will therefore be high next summer, which is why, besides putting in the usual gruelling hours of training at antisocially early times of day, he is also working extensively on his mental preparation with SportScotland Institute of Sport psychologist Misha Botting.
“I do a lot of work with Misha and we always talk about getting in the right frame of mind before a race. So when I walk out into an Olympic final and 15,000 people are roaring for me and everyone is chanting my name, I look back to my training and think ‘It’s all about racing here. Think back to your training: don’t get scared that everyone is wanting you to win. Use the crowd as support. Use them as motivation when you’re on the last leg and you’re hurting, to pick you up.’ But if you let it get to you too much, that’s when it can affect your performance.
“I know how to turn everyone’s expectations into a positive and that’s what you need to do. There are a lot of people who did the opposite, who got very nervous and tied up in their race, but it’s really important to use the crowd as a positive.
“It’s never guaranteed who’s going to win. When I stand up for that race I need to know I’ve done everything I can and am in the best shape of my life. That’s what I work for every day in training.
“I have a rough idea what time I want to hit next year. I’m pretty sure the way my training is going that I’ll be capable of doing that – and getting on top of the podium again.”
Born in Abu Dhabi and raised in Aberdeen, Renwick moved to Glasgow five years ago. Next year’s Games may have seemed distant then, but by now they feel almost close enough to touch. “The Commonwealth Games are always in the back of my mind. I’m counting down the days sometimes and it’s going to come round really fast.
“There was a countdown to the Olympics and everyone got dead excited for that. And as I train and live in Glasgow there’s a real buzz around the city.”
Before then, of course, there is this season, and the world championships in Barcelona. Having been more than three seconds behind the Olympic champion in London, Renwick has a bit of catching up to do if he is to win a medal there, but he has been encouraged by his early results. “I’ve been making great improvements this season so far, so I’m looking forward to the trials and qualifying for my main events, the 200 and 400m freestyle. And hopefully getting on the podium for the world championships. It’s going to be really tough, and it will take a hell of a swim to get on top of that podium, but I’m feeling confident at the moment.
“There’s a lot of young guys coming through all over Great Britain. I’ve been at the top in 200 freestyle for the last four or five years in Great Britain and I hold the British record. But although I’m the fastest in Great Britain, I’m looking at the rest of the world – the Americans, the Chinese, the Australians. I want to beat them.
“At the end of the day it’s about getting medals on the world stage, and that’s what I keep my focus on – not necessarily what everyone else is doing in Great Britain. .
“But there is great talent coming through here – guys at 18 hitting times that are faster than I managed then. So who knows? In two, three or four years they could be faster than me.”