Keanna Macinnes wary on meeting 2020 Olympic expectations

Keanna Mcinnes believes elevation into the world-class performance squad is encouragement but no guarantee of an Olympics place. Picture: Getty
Keanna Mcinnes believes elevation into the world-class performance squad is encouragement but no guarantee of an Olympics place. Picture: Getty
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Keanna Macinnes was tabbed as a prodigy at a young age coming through the ranks of Heart of Midlothian. It was never football igniting her fire, though. The eponymous aquatic club, not a huge stone’s throw from Tynecastle, cultivated her ability to plough through water with fascinating ease.

A world championship medallist at a junior level, she has no option now but to mix with the great and the good since turning 18 last summer. To sink or to swim, the decision is very much a no-brainer.

Armed with a fistful of medals from last weekend’s Scottish short-course championships in Edinburgh, the butterfly hope will now cast her eyes towards 2020 and an opportunity to elevate herself into the ranks of Olympians. A realistic goal in the eyes of British Swimming who have inserted her into their world-class performance squad that is expected to closely mirror the travelling party to Tokyo next August.

Positive encouragement, Macinnes maintains, rather than a stone-cold guarantee. “I’ve tried to focus on my approach to races rather than times or qualification for the team,” she confirms. “I can see how my times do. Sure, I’d love to be there. Everyone would.

“But 2020 has always been an unusual one for me because I’ll still only be 18. It’s an odd age to be an Olympian. It’s always been in the back of my mind to make that Games but I’ve never thought ‘I’m definitely going to Tokyo’.”

Yet there have been Olympic champions of younger age in the past and there will assuredly be so in Japan. Although her trajectory is a little below that of her impressive contemporary Freya Anderson, forecasting is an inexact science in a sport where rapid progression is possible. Both have the capacity to return with medals, particularly if the British women secure the relay excursions which team chiefs have in mind.

Now in her second year at Stirling University, following Macinnes’ switch from childhood club to one of the swimming’s engine rooms she now mixes with swimmers such as Duncan Scott and Ross Murdoch on a daily basis.

She transitioned there at 17.

“Because I moved to uni a year early, that’s been helpful because I’ve had my settling-in stage a year early,” she added. “That’s meant this year’s been simpler.”

Hearts cast adrift, her ascent is now being guided by Brad Hay and Steven Tigg at Stirling, coaches with proven records. The building blocks were in place when she arrived on campus.

But expectation for some early-achievers can be a lead weight.

“I think it can work either way,” Macinnes counters. “I’m not sure it makes too much of a positive being good when you’re young. It’s possible to be not as good at a young age and then come through.”

She is seasoned at the grind, though. The cycle of training, travel, compete and reboot. “That’s been beneficial, handling going abroad,” she adds.

Come the New Year, she will head to altitude with the country’s elite. This may be party season for most but the pool doors are open and even prodigies cannot rest. She grins: “We’ve got Christmas Day and Boxing Day off but we’re down to train on Christmas Eve and Hogmanay. So it won’t 
be too quiet.”