Monday, October 9, 2017

"The spirit of Glasgow 2014 brought it home" - Scott McLay on his swimming dream

“That atmosphere will stick with me for the rest of my life, the home games of Team Scotland. I’m so excited to go to Gold Coast and get that same experience."

Scott McLay has revealed watching his compatriots succeed at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games was the moment he decided he wanted to pursue his dreams as a swimmer.

The 18-year-old Perth swimmer, based in Stirling, told how the atmosphere at the Glasgow games – and a conversation with his mum – proved pivotal to him dedicating himself to becoming a better swimmer and reaching the lofty goals that he has now, having been selected to Team Scotland for the Commonwealth Games next year in Gold Coast, Australia.

“I was there in Glasgow in 2014. I watched Stephen Milne in the 400m and the 1500m finals and Ross Murdoch win the 200m breaststroke. I remember sitting there and my mum saying ‘You could be there in four years’ time’ and I said ‘No, no I won’t’ because I just didn’t think I’d get to the level where I am now.

“That’s something that will stick with me for the rest of my life, that atmosphere, the home games of Team Scotland and everyone all shouting for Ross [Murdoch] and Michael [Jamieson] to do the best that they could. I’m so excited to go to Gold Coast and get that same experience.

“I guess the spirit of 2014 in Glasgow just brought it home,” McLay added. “That sense of being part of something, being part of one team, Team Scotland. I did want to go for it, but I didn’t think I was able to do it. I just thought those guys were light years ahead.”

But McLay has proved a light year is within reach if you work hard, stay humble and remain committed. “Throughout the time I was swimming at Perth City [Swim Club] I just kept moving forward, I didn’t think about it too much I just kept it there in the back of my mind. I just went through the rankings and kept going and getting better and better.”

Outside of the day-to-day grind of the pool, McLay let slip his hidden passion for flying, and his desire to one day be a pilot. “I like to fly, I want to be a commercial pilot,” he said. “My dad lives over in California, so when I go out there, him and I go flying with him. I go over twice a year as a holiday and we fly to San Diego and Los Angeles, Palm Springs, places like that.”

“I’ll go swimming for as long as I can and hopefully go to the Olympics in 2020, then after swimming is done hopefully I’ll become a pilot.”

But for now it’s his swimming career that’s taking off; he secured his place in the team for Gold Coast 2018 after soaring at the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas to become Scotland’s most successful Youth Games athlete in history with five medals, including three Golds.

“I didn’t expect to do as well as I did out there but I had a great team and great support and I came away with what I did.

“I was just hoping with each section I went through that hopefully I was getting quick enough to go to a Commonwealth Games.

“There was obviously pressure there but I like to work with pressure,” said McLay. “It helps me push forward. My training with Ann Dickson and Elaine Johnston helped me to develop race techniques and race strategies and by putting them into place throughout the races I was in and that allowed me to deal with the pressure and get onto the team.”

Despite his record-breaking exploits and quick rise to fame and a place at the Commonwealth Games, McLay remains grounded and insists all the credit should go to the people who trained him up, particularly Perth City Swim Club (which includes teammate Stephen Milne). “There’s a close relationship with Ann, she’s a lovely lady that always helps who only wants to do good for you.

“All of us there have been able to listen to Ann and she’s been able to get us through everything so it’s all down to her, and the people at the Institute of Sport as well.”