Duncan Scott aims to fulfil potential with world relay swimming gold

After a week of advances which have still felt a little short of his full potential, Duncan Scott enters the concluding day of the world swimming championships in Gwangju still seeking an elusive gold souvenir. A maiden solo medal, a bronze in the 200 metres freestyle, was a breakthrough. Fifth in the individual medley a hint, perhaps, at more. The greatest ripples created by the 22-year-old came from his spat with Sun Yang over the Chinese champion’s questionable doping record. The Scot’s public stance won admirers. He would surely rather have won titles.
Duncan Scott  has a bronze medal so far from the 200m individual medleyDuncan Scott  has a bronze medal so far from the 200m individual medley
Duncan Scott has a bronze medal so far from the 200m individual medley

One last opportunity knocks in today’s 4x100m medley where the British line-up will summon one further burst of energy. Double breaststroke champion Adam Peaty can collect a third gold to bring home from South Korea. Luke Greenbank, James Guy and Scott, a little extra luggage to accompany bronzes already secured.

A year out from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, this is a quartet worth watching, Scott, from Alloa, fully intends to ensure his spot is retained. “When you’re part of a team with the athletes which Britain has, it gives you some confidence when you’re standing at the block,” Scott said. “We’ve got Adam Peaty in our team. When he’s dropping 56 seconds, and we’ve got the second-fastest breaststroker on our team as well in James Wilby, you’ve got Jimmy on the butterfly, Luke Greenbank getting a medal in the 200 backstroke … to be a part of that team is an honour.

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“But I think we’re going in there to try and battle to get on the podium. Some other nations are looking incredibly strong, like Russia and America. But regardless, we have to go in confident, especially with the depth we’ve got.”

Britain’s Ben Proud, dethroned as champion in the 50m butterfly, came a disappointing fifth in yesterday 50m freestyle final – just 0.1 seconds short of the podium – as Caeleb Dressel eased to victory in 21.04.

“The swim felt pretty good,” Proud, the European champion in Glasgow last year, declared. “But the time was only a fraction faster than last night’s semi. I knew what it would take to get on to the podium and I was exactly right, I just didn’t quite execute the race as I would have hoped. But at the same time, I gave it my all and that was the best race I could bring. I would have liked to have been on the podium but I know where my full potential lies and this doesn’t detract from my motivation for next year.”

Dressel will depart as the dominant performer of these championships. The American, 22, later increased his haul still further, taking his total of golds to five by winning the 100m butterfly with Guy seventh despite his fastest time of 2019. While the USA’s 17-year-old prodigy, Regan Smith, followed up her world record in the semi-finals of the 200m backstroke by securing gold.

Meanwhile, Ross Murdoch is set to carry on swimming beyond next year’s Olympic Games despite returning home empty-handed. The 25-year-old missed out on reaching a final for the second major championships in succession when he crashed out in the semis of the 200m breaststroke.

But he has signed on for the Budapest Iron team in the new money-spinning International Swimming League which begins in the autumn. With greater opportunity to pick up a payday, Murdoch could well target the 2022 Commonwealth Games for his swansong, or even go beyond, even though his result has put his Lottery backing at risk.

The Scot said: “I’ve always seen myself going towards 2022. But that was because there was no talk about an ISL or FINA Champions Series. You rely on getting your funding but there comes a point when your funding will drop.

“But as you get older, your priorities change. You don’t want to get up and swim every day. There’s no pension. This isn’t a job. It’s a glorified holiday, at the moment. But if that changes, then my attitude to staying on past 2022 could well change. With the ISL and Champions Series, opportunities are opening up and it could be spectacular.”

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Also on the final day, Stirling University’s Aimee Willmott, the Commonwealth champion, races in the women’s 400m individual medley with a point to prove after the Englishwoman lost her Lottery funding last winter. Anna Hopkin will go in the final of the women’s 50m freestyle after clocking 24.34 seconds to finish fourth in her semi, the second-fastest time ever by a Briton. “I can’t quite believe I just did that time,” she said. “It felt really good, my start was much better than this morning but I glided into the finish, so there’s still more to work on.”

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