HAD 2020 panned out differently, Duncan Scott could currently be basking in the glow of Olympic glory.

The Stirling swimmer won two silver medals at Rio 2016 and having improved significantly in the four years since his Olympic debut, was touted to add to that tally in Tokyo, perhaps even becoming Scotland’s first Olympic gold medallist in the pool since David Wilkie in 1976.

But the coronavirus pandemic had other ideas and so with Tokyo 2020 having been postponed until July of next year, Scott is now back at the start of his Olympic build-up.

For many who had a chance of Olympic success this summer, this prospect would be somewhat demoralising. Scott, however, has chosen to see the delay of the Games in another light entirely.

“I guess without the postponement, I could be sitting here now with medals,” the 23-year-old freestyle specialist said.

“I was in really good form – the Edinburgh International (in March) was the last competition I did and I PB’d in the 50 free, which was close to the best I’d ever been in-season for the 100, and same for the 200 so that was a good sign.

“But I feel like if that’s how good I felt this year, why can’t I be in even better shape next year?

“I could potentially have won medals this year, but with the Olympics now happening next year, I could win more.

“So I’m just thinking how can I continue my progress and how can I be in even better shape next year? Being only 23, another year of getting stronger and better can only benefit me.”

For Scotland’s elite runners, cyclists and the like, lockdown may have disrupted their training, but it did not halt it entirely. However, for Scott and his fellow swimmers, the closure of swimming pools meant he had no way to do his job.

Initially, with the UK’s pools closed but Tokyo 2020 still going ahead, Scott was forced to face the prospect of competing in the world’s biggest sporting event with almost no preparation, something that he admits was somewhat terrifying.

“Being told I couldn’t train was a big upset and a massive shock and it was something I’d never experienced before,” he recalls.

“But what was really shocking was that at the start, I wasn’t able to swim but the Olympics still hadn’t been postponed. So I was thinking the Olympics might still go ahead but we’d not be able to train in the lead-up to it – that was probably the weirdest part of it all.”

However, it wasn’t long before Tokyo was put back a year and Scott could breathe a sigh of relief. Without access to a pool, Scott took to cycling, with a bike borrowed from friend and former GB cyclist, Mark McGuire, a saving grace, and regular gym sessions over Zoom helped maintain his fitness, as well as his sanity.

Elite athletes were granted early access into training venues, with Scott and his University of Stirling cohorts returning to the water in July.

And while the lack of training access over the summer may not have been ideal for Scott, he admits the enforced time out of the water has brought a number of benefits.

“I’ve learnt a lot about myself the last few months because obviously I had plenty of time to think about things,” the Commonwealth champion said.

“Each year, I don’t feel like I have much time to look back and reflect on what I’ve done, or what I’ve achieved – I’m always moving onto the next thing and looking at how I can better what I’ve done the previous year.

“So having an unknown amount of time out of the water gave me the chance to look back at things I’ve just not been able to look at in previous seasons.

“It was really nice to reflect on what I’ve achieved over the past couple of years and also look at where I could have done better.

“It was a long break out of the pool, but a lot of good has come from it and especially mentally, it made me really want it and want to get back in the water.”

Scott may have ten months until he makes his second Olympic appearance, assuming he makes it through the British trials unscathed, but with international sport slowly but surely starting back up again, the Stirling man has his eye on getting back into competitive swimming sooner rather than later.

The International Swimming League (ISL) announced earlier this month it will hold five weeks of racing behind closed doors in October and November, which is something Scott admits he is seriously looking at. And he admits that having spent longer than ever with no competitive action, he cannot wait to step onto the blocks and move his preparation for Tokyo 2021 onto the next level.

“It’ll be good to have something to put in the calendar, the exciting part is thinking that I could be back racing again,” he said.

“Racing is why I do the sport – I love competing and there’s been plenty of things going on in the background to try to get us competing again so that’ll be great. I really can’t wait to race again.”