Mark Szaranek is the latest Scottish swimming talent to have honed his skills at an American university – and he is aiming to make a splash at the World Championships in Hungary in the coming days.
The 21-year-old Fifer fell in love with the sport in his hometown of Glenrothes and with his father John a well known coach now working at the University of Edinburgh it is clear to see that swimming runs in the family.
Szaranek junior claimed two silver medals at the 2017 British Swimming Championships earlier this year to secure his debut call-up to the World Championships team – and he is not in Budapest just to make up the numbers.
He will be competing in the 200m individual medley and 400m individual medley and will first be in the pool tomorrow.
“When I was young I swam in Glenrothes and then at Carnegie [in Dunfermline] and there were not many days when me and dad were not on a poolside somewhere,” he recounts.
“After I left school I was always pretty keen to try and head out to America to study and be part of their competitive swimming scene over there, and the last three years have not disappointed.
“I have been having the time of my life out there, swimming whilst also studying chemistry.
“The sporting culture is so great there and where I am at, the University of Florida where the team is called the Florida Gators, we get great coaching and support.
“We are based in a small place called Gainesville, but we get to travel around the country and take on some quality athletes in high-pressure environments.
“Doing that on a regular basis has made me feel like I am ready to attack big meets like the Worlds and not be too nervous, I have just got to go out and swim my own race and the rest will take care of itself.
“The team environment in America has helped me too because we all push each other on to new PBs and such like and coming into this GB team I feel a similar vibe.”
As mentioned Mark has been lucky enough to work with father John as a coach for many years, and when he is in Florida he is able to work with Gregg Troy who is in his 60s and has a wealth of experience and knowledge.
“I really do have the best of both worlds,” Szaranek said. “Coach Troy is something of a legend over in Florida and working with him you can see why because he has the ability to get the best out of his athletes.
“Myself and my dad have a good working relationship and I always love having him on the other end of a phone for tips.
“And when I am back I head along to the Universiy of Edinburgh training with him and they have a great group of swimmers coming through.
“I am going to enjoy this experience in Budapest and then kick on from here.”