Duncan Scott on taking Olympic success in his stride and why he won't follow Adam Peaty onto Strictly Come Dancing

Duncan Scott achieved unprecedented Olympic feats in Tokyo but the Scottish swimmer is not about to follow Adam Peaty onto Strictly Come Dancing.

Duncan Scott in Tokyo with the four Olympic medals he won in the pool. Picture: Paul Grover/Shutterstock

Scott and Peaty were the stars in the pool at the summer Games, ably supported by a stellar cast as the British swimming team enjoyed their most successful ever Olympics.

Their eight-medal haul included four golds and eclipsed the previous best of seven medals, a record which stood for 113 years.

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Peaty’s triumph in the 100 metres breaststroke made him the first British swimmer to retain an Olympic title, catapulting him into a rarefied world of celebrity where he will soon count Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman as friends.

Duncan Scott with his University of Stirling coach Steven Tigg. Picture: University of Stirling /PA Wire

For Scott, the Olympics were no less seismic. He was involved in precisely half of those swimming medals as he became the first British athlete to win four at a single Games.

They were gold in the 4x200m freestyle relay and silvers in the individual 200m freestyle, the individual 200m medley and the 4x100m relay medley.

And yet the unassuming Scott seems refreshingly unaffected.

Asked if he had come back down to earth yet, Scott replied: “Who said I left?” before conceding it had been “a weird couple of weeks”.

Tom Dean, James Guy, Matthew Richards and Duncan Scott react after winning the men's 4 x 200m freestyle relay final for Britain at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Picture: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The 24-year-old gives the impression of someone who doesn’t get too high or too low and would treat Kipling’s two impostors, Triumph and Disaster, exactly the same.

While Peaty is brushing up on his dance steps, the prospect of appearing on primetime telly holds little appeal for Scott.

“Not at the moment for me personally but I can’t wait to watch him,” he says. “It’s going to be entertaining to say the least but, nah, not for me right now.”

That’s not to say there’s not a steeliness about Scott as anyone will testify who has watched the video of him refusing to share a podium with Chinese drug cheat Sun Yang at the 2019 world championships.

A golden moment for Duncan Scott as Britain win the 4 x 200m freestyle relay final in Tokyo. Picture: Al Bello/Getty Images

His principled stance garnered headlines around the world but Scott says little has changed for him since returning from Tokyo. He thinks long and hard about what impact his exploits have had on his everyday life before offering: “I got recognised at a golf course - and I’ll take that!”

The course in question was Carnoustie at the weekend where he was giving his backing to Louise Duncan, the Scottish amateur who achieved a top-ten finish in the AIG Women’s Open. Like Scott, Duncan is a product of the University of Stirling.

“I was supporting Louise,” said the Glasgow-born swimmer. “Sunday was a beautiful day but Saturday was a tough one walking round in the wind and rain and she was unreal.”

Being recognised at a golf tournament seems scant reward for Scott whose historic feat in winning four medals in Tokyo took him by surprise.

“I didn’t have a clue that three had been the [previous] highest,” said the swimmer who also won two medals at Rio 2016. “I was really unaware of it all to be honest. It’s one event at a time and before you know it I’ve come to the end of the meeting and I’ve got four medals.

“Sadly, it’s not quite as easy as that. When I get a medal I can have a couple of minutes of almost relief and being delighted with it and then moving on and parking it and being excited about the next opportunity I have.”

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Scott kept the medals tucked away in his sock drawer in Japan and he’s not the type to flash the bling since coming home.

“I just keep them in their boxes,” he says. “It’s not like I get them out for myself!

“Hopefully I can take good care of them because my Rio ones are in an embarrassing condition. I think it’s the same with everyone’s from Rio. I don’t know what they were made from but they just look terrible now. I think it’s something to do with the plating not being quite right on them. So everyone’s hand grease has eroded them away.”

The Tokyo medals were made from recycled mobile phones and seem more durable. “A phenomenal idea,” says Scott of the environmentally sound craftsmanship.

Peaty described Scott as “inspiring” in Tokyo and expressed the hope that his team-mate would get the “respect and recognition” he deserved when he returned home. The problem for Scott and other high achievers in so-called minority sports is that coverage tends to drop off as soon as the Olympic circus has packed up and left town.

So how can swimming remain in the spotlight with the football season in full swing?

“Well, that’s your job as the media isn’t it?” he says, not unreasonably. “I think it’s just the culture of the country and the sports we put time and investment into. I’d say our national sport for spectating is football but I don’t know what our national sport is in general.

“I think it’s a shame that it does fall off the face of the earth after the Olympic year, which is strange when you’ve got the likes of Peaty performing year in, year out.

“Hopefully because of how well the British team did as a whole, getting eight medals, it will encourage the coverage to continue and the awareness will last a bit longer than it usually does.”

Scott will continue to plough up and down the University of Stirling pool, with the Paris 2024 Olympics very much in his mind - “I’m not looking at the pensioner home just yet,” he says.

His partnership with the university, and in particular coaches Steven Tigg and Brad Hay, has been the making of the swimmer.

“It’s the culture, the environment, the coaching staff but also the athletes they’ve tried to create,” says Scott. “It’s quite professional yet also relaxed. Steven Tigg has high long-term ambitions and goals for everyone. There is a process through everything - the continuous improvement he and Brad Hay look for.”

Long may it continue.

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