Duncan Scott has been tipped to add to his fast-expanding medal collection with more Olympic hardware in two years’ time – and that confident prediction comes from one of Britain’s greatest ever swimmers, Rebecca Adlington.
The double Olympic champion from Beijing 2008 and two-time bronze medallist at London 2012 picked Scott’s stunning victory in a high-class Commonwealth Games 100 metres freestyle as her highlight from the pool at Gold Coast earlier this year and now believes the 21-year-old from Alloa is primed to take the next step at Tokyo 2020.
Scott won a Scottish record from a single Games of six medals in Australia, which added to the two relay silvers he took home from his Olympic bow in Rio and Adlington has been delighted to see him continue his progress.
“He was my one to watch after Rio. We picked out who to keep your eye on and Duncan was mine,” said the former 400m and 800m freestyler.
“There were quite a few stand-out performances at the Commonwealth Games but for me it was Duncan by an absolute mile. Even his interviews afterwards, you wanted to give him a hug and say ‘you’re amazing’.
“He is such a nice guy and the way he approached the races. He had a really busy programme but approached everything as a fresh start, and just said he was here to race. You could tell his passion for the sport.”
Scott saw off big beasts like Aussie world champion Kyle Chalmers and South Africa’s Chad le Clos at the Commonwealths but Adlington is cautious about Scott’s chances of emulating David Wilkie and topping the podium in Japan.
“There is an extremely good American guy, Caeleb Dressel, who I think will have something to say about that,” said Adlington. “I think Duncan is more than capable of winning more Olympic medals, 100 per cent. Of course he is.
“It’s about keeping injury free, keeping that level head. Unless anything horrible happens with injury, which touch wood it won’t, then my prediction is that Duncan is going to come back from Tokyo with more Olympic medals.
“Duncan is still 21 and he is still going to develop. The great thing we see him over the 200m but he has got such a long career ahead of him. As he grows and gets more powerful – I don’t mean height-wise – as he gets older he has got an amazing career doing the 200 and then because he has got the speed he can move down to the sprint events.
“It is crazy, at 20 or something years of age, he has an Olympic medal, Commonwealth medals and he is still at the start of his career.”
Not that crazy, of course, as Adlington achieved her historic double golden triumph at the age of 19. After the two bronzes in London she retired at the grand old age of 23, having never left a pool during an individual Olympic event without a medal.
She was speaking at the Tollcross Swimming Centre to promote next month’s European Championships, which form part of a multi-sport bonanza to rekindle memories of Glasgow’s own Commonwealth Games four years ago.
Adlington has warned the home team, which reverts to Great Britain after splitting into four Down Under, to expect even stiffer competition.
“The French team are really strong, there are so many good Europeans. I always think it is harder because there is more depth,” she said. “The Commy Games I always think, with a few exceptions, it is us [Home Nations] against the Aussies but the Europeans is a lot more challenging, it will be a lot more difficult for these guys to be making finals and things.
“It is going to be a tough challenge for them across the board but this is the one they are focused on more. They are going to want to improve on whatever they have done.”
Now 29, Adlington is a seasoned TV pundit and will be back as part of the always lively BBC team, although she will be based mainly in the main studio hub in George Square for an event which has combined the European championships of aquatics, gymnastics, cycling, rowing and triathlon as well as a golf event at Gleneagles.
The BBC’s swimming coverage has earned a reputation for a party atmosphere vibe and Adlington, who describes it as “just having a chat with my mates”, is heartened by the increase TV exposure for a wide range of sports off the back of those home Games in London and Glasgow.
“Things have changed since my first Euros in 2006, which was my first senior competition and medal,” she said. “I remember during the Commonwealth Games I had the radio on and Duncan Scott was the lead sports story and I was cheering because that almost never happens with swimming unless it’s during an Olympics.
“That’s what is great about the media now. Of course it’s all football now because it’s World Cup and we’ve got Wimbledon starting but I feel all sports get a look in now. You can find anything on, something like triathlon, it’s accessible. There wasn’t a red button or anything like that when I was starting out. I sound like an old grandma now... back in my day!”
One former team-mate of Adlington’s, Scotland’s Hannah Miley, is still going at the age of 28, something her great friend views with endless admiration but not an ounce of envy.
“Hannah is like half my size though, she’s a little Polly Pocket,” she said with a laugh. “I say this all the time but Hannah is so unique in what she’s done. Yes, she might not have multiple Olympic gold medals like a Phelps, but at the same time I put her in the same category of someone like that because to hold that level is unbelievable.
“Nobody stays at the top of their game, making final after final after final like Hannah. My heart breaks for her because she’s come fourth so many times, it just kills me because she works so hard, she’s such a great ambassador for the sport, loves what she does.
“Everyone is in floods of tears when she misses out and when she does well it feels extra special. She’s never let her height hold her back. Most female swimmers are 5ft 10in plus. Katie Ledecky is 6ft 1in, I’m 5ft 11in. But Hannah is just ‘I don’t care, I’m working hard and do the job’. Her journey has been incredible but I don’t miss it at all.”