Swimming’s golden boy Duncan Scott dodges social media storm

Duncan Scott slaps the water to celebrate medley relay gold. Picture: Catherine Ivill/Getty
Duncan Scott slaps the water to celebrate medley relay gold. Picture: Catherine Ivill/Getty
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It is perhaps just as well that Duncan Scott’s phone died on the way back from South Korea.

During the world championships, at which his brilliant last leg anchored Great Britain to medley gold, Scott undertook his customary withdrawal from social media to focus 
his mind

So he has yet to fully digest the deluge of missives despatched his way. Some good, some bad, a few truly ugly. His refusal to cosily share a podium photo with controversial Chinese rival Sun Yang after the 200 metres freestyle final had the keyboard warriors launching missiles from afar. That after the Olympic champion – clouded by a previous drug ban and the decision of FINA, the sport’s governing body, not to pursue action following alleged interference in a test last year – had called the Scot “a loser” with fists raised as bait.

Scott said: “I have had a lot scarier people shout scarier things at me. It was quite a surreal moment. The crowd was quite split over the occasion, but it was what it was.”

The row overshadowed Scott’s maiden individual medal, a bronze, at global level. But Scott added: “It is not to do with him, it is more about the bigger culture, all of it.”

The podium offered an opportunity to stand against an imperfect system which its critics – including the World Anti-Doping Agency – claim is waving cheats through the front door.

Had Scott not been asked if he was going to emulate the snub to Sun by Australia’s Mack Horton the previous evening, it may never have occurred to him.

“I wasn’t just standing there and then going, ‘you know what, I’m going to do this’,” added Scott. “I didn’t shake his hand in the presentation room beforehand, hence his reaction.”

British Swimming and his team-mates, including Adam Peaty, backed Scott to the hilt, despite a risible slap on the wrist from FINA.

Scott said: “It helped me to handle the rest of the meet and not get sort of carried away with this extra emotion.”

Inevitably, Sun’s billion-strong supporters club lobbed grenades, including death threats. Should Scott eventually search his name on Twitter, the reaction will be a curious read.

“I didn’t do it for the social media attention,” he said. “I don’t do it because I want money. I would have picked another sport if I wanted money. I do it because there are things I want to achieve in the sport at the highest level. The number of messages I have got saying ‘he’s an attention seeker’. Aye, right. I would like to think a lot of athletes would have done the same.”

The 22-year-old will retreat to Stirling University and return, post-break, to the humdrum of training. Tokyo, scene of the 2020 Olympics, where Scott had a pre-championship camp, will weigh on his mind.

Prior to his triumphant 4x100m medley relay outing, Scott felt underwhelmed by his solo efforts in Gwangju.

The objective had been to peak, to achieve personal bests, to leave everything in the water. The trip still provided a useful lesson in how to cope with a gruelling schedule ahead of his second Olympics.

Scott added: “I have learned quite a lot about handling emotion, about having a quick turnaround in the pool. It was quite a different situation and it will be good for the future.”