FOR Ross Murdoch it is set to be the most significant minute of his life.
The 20-year-old from Balfron, Stirlingshire, will contest his favoured 100m breaststroke event on Saturday at the Scottish Gas National Open Swimming Championships 2014 in Glasgow with only a mere 60 seconds - give or take a few tenths - standing between him and a place in the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
He will be taking on a strong field that includes poster boy Michael Jamieson, Craig Benson and Jamie Graham, but with the Games qualification standard set at 1:01.57, Murdoch knows he can blow that out of the water having already broken the one-minute barrier to finish in a blistering 59.80sec and set a personal best at the 2013 British Gas Swimming Championships last June.
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The championships, which begin on Thursday at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre, are the first of two events which will give Scotland's swimmers their shot at qualifying for the Commonwealth Games. The second chance comes the following week with the 2014 British Gas Swimming Championships, also being held in Glasgow, from April 10-15.
Murdoch plans to compete over 50m, 100m and 200m at both meets and knows he will need to produce the swim of his life if he is to secure his Team Scotland spot.
"It is definitely going to be one of the most challenging events in terms of trying to get on the team," he says. "There is so much strength and depth in Scotland at the moment. If you make one mistake you are not going to be on that team. It's absolutely brutal.
"I think that is especially true in the 50m where the qualifying time is 28.50sec. Everyone in the final is going to thrash that. There is not going to be a single person in the top 10 in Scotland who isn't going to make that time. You will need to go a lot faster than that if you want to get into the top 10, never mind the team for the Games."
While Jamieson, Benson and Graham will test him this week, Murdoch already has his eye on who he believes will be among his biggest rivals in the second week of competition. "At the British Champs it is more likely to be Chris Steeples of Manchester Aquatics and Adam Peaty who swims for City of Derby for the 100m rather than MJ," he says. "They have both been going pretty quick."
Murdoch finished last season ranked joint seventh in the world for the 100m breaststroke. "It still feels surreal," he says. "When I was growing up and working my way through the Scottish age groups categories, it was always Craig Benson who was on top and there was no one else who could touch him. For a couple of seasons Jamie Graham started swimming fast. Then Craig made the Olympics. The focus was always on other people."
But Murdoch is relaxed about taking up the mantle as the one to beat. "I think I like it," he says. "It keeps a bit of pressure on because I want to stay on top. It's one of those things where you can't explain the feeling when you are there. I'm the top dog almost. It's pretty cool. I'm certainly not going to become complacent. I grew up knowing I had to work hard and that you only get back out what you put in.
"I know exactly how Craig Benson trains, Adam Peaty and MJ too. They don't let up. They all want to be at the top. I'm constantly being chased by these guys and that is what drives me every session because I know exactly what is going through their heads as they are swimming up and down the pool. The exact same thing is going through my mind."
While Team Scotland selection will come down to placings in the two trials, Murdoch has already proved he has the pedigree. In January, he claimed double gold in the 100m and 200m breaststroke at the Arena Grand Prix in Texas, following it up a week later with victory in the 100m and second place behind Jamieson in the 200m at the 2014 Flanders Speedo Cup in Antwerp.
The swimmer also claimed bronze over 50m in the Antwerp meet setting a PB of 27.56 in the qualifying heats which, while still to be officially ratified, should stand as a Scottish record. He also returned from SwimCup 2013 in Amsterdam last December with a clean sweep of three golds.
"Since April last year I've been consistently under the Commonwealth Games qualifying time in all of my events," he says. "It gives me a lot of confidence that I can go in and make the times. I have no doubt in my mind about that. It's coming top three that will be the difficult part."
Murdoch switched coaches to train under Ben Higson last autumn after Rob Greenwood, who formerly oversaw the British Gas ITC Stirling programme, was appointed head coach of the British Para-Swimming programme.
"I'm still in contact with Rob, but Ben is now the head of our programme," he says. "Ben used to train in Stirling so he knows the programme inside out. He is a top-class coach. We clicked very quickly and get on well. He is definitely the right man for the job."
This year, Murdoch was among six promising British swimmers chosen to be mentored by double Olympic champion Rebecca Adlington. "We've already emailed back and forth," he says. "It's good to be able to speak to someone who has been there and done it. Rebecca has had experience in every field of professional sport from getting an Olympic gold medal to dealing with the media. She has so much valuable experience that if she didn't do this programme it would all go to waste.
"I'll be keeping in touch with Rebecca in the build-up to the Commonwealth Games. I know she found it quite hard dealing with the pressure and expectation of a home Games going into London 2012. What she learned in dealing with that experience is what I need to know going into Glasgow and other competitions throughout my career. I'm 100% going to use that knowledge she has passed on. It's such a privilege to have the opportunity."
o The Scottish Gas National Open Swimming Championships 2014 are at Tollcross International Swimming Centre, Glasgow, from April 3-6 followed by the 2014 British Gas Swimming Championships from April 10-15.