There was an air of excitement at the University of Stirling this week as six of its swimmers were confirmed for the Team Scotland squad heading to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Reigning Commonwealth champion, Ross Murdoch, and double Olympic medallist and World Champion, Duncan Scott, head the Stirling contingent alongside European silver medallist and World finalist, Kathleen Dawson, and former World Junior Champion, Craig Benson.
Clockwise from top left: Kathleen Dawson, Scott McLay, Duncan Scott, Craig McLean.
The more experienced campaigners will be joined in Australia by Team Scotland’s most successful Youth Games athlete in history, Scott McLay, who has just joined the Stirling programme, as well as 2015 Youth Games silver medallist, Craig McLean. The team will also be supported by the University’s Head Performance Swim Coach, Steve Tigg, who will be part of the coaching staff.
As one of the younger members of the squad, McLean is readying himself for his first Commonwealth Games, which are also his first senior Championships, and is relishing the opportunity. He said: “To get the news was just pure excitement. To make the step up from Youth Games to senior Games this quickly wasn’t entirely expecting. It was a goal but to get it, is perfect.
“I’ve been to Australia once and it was absolutely amazing. To see other athletes from Team Scotland and the other countries prepare for the Games in different ways, along with the opening ceremony, will be my two highlights.”
With training schedules geared towards the event in April, the athletes will have the difficult task of balancing their studies with competing but McLean is confident the structures are in place to support them succeed in both areas.
“One of the best things about Stirling (University) is that they’re very accommodating and they help me with almost anything. I’ll catch up with my lifestyle advisor who, in communication with the University, will help me make a plan to help me carry on my degree during the upcoming period.”
While McLean make his Games debut in Australia, Dawson, who made her Commonwealth Games bow as a 16-year old at Glasgow 2014, is well aware of the Games experience and is thrilled to be part of Team Scotland once again. She said: “I’m just as proud as I was first time around and I can’t believe I’m going out to Australia to compete with Team Scotland…I’m so excited!
“I feel like I’m able to prepare myself better for this sort of stage. This is the second time I’ve experienced a team environment where you stay with other athletes, but I feel Glasgow prepared me for that side of things, so I’m looking to swim just as well as I would at a World or European Championships.
With Stirling attracting a number of world-class swimmers, Dawson has reaped the benefits of training with experienced international medallists, producing impressive displays at the British and World Championships, and believes they lead by example in and out of the pool.
“It’s good just to see how they go about their daily lives and how they prepare themselves for events like this and how they apply themselves to training and the gym on a day-to-day basis. You definitely take a lot from watching the people around you.”
Commenting on the athletes’ selection, David Bond, the University of Stirling’s Head of Performance Sport said: “The swimming programme at Stirling is renowned across the world and to have asomany athletes selected for Team Scotland is testament to the hard work of the athletes along with Steve and the coaching team.
“The day-to-day graft they put in is inspiring to their teammates, staff and fellow students and I know they are extremely excited about the opportunity to represent Team Scotland and the University of Stirling at the far side of the world.
“It’s going to be a phenomenal experience on the Gold Coast and we’re glad we’ve been able to play a part in helping the athletes get there.”
The 2018 Commonwealth Games will be held on the Gold Coast, Queensland, in Australia between 4 and 15 April 2018.
The full list of Team Scotland athletes selected so far can be found on the Team Scotland website.