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Low-key homecoming gave Braveheart fan Dan Wallace the freedom to triumph

THE coverage of Team Scotland in the build-up to these Commonwealth Games was all-encompassing.

Dan Wallace poses after receiving his gold medal   Photograph: Getty
Dan Wallace poses after receiving his gold medal Photograph: Getty

There were press conferences every other day. Athletes were besieged by television, radio, online and print journalists. Features were written on almost every participant in every discipline, some not even making the paper due to space constraints. There were pull-outs, posters and staged photo opportunities. These were athletes used to spending life in the shadow of their football counterparts, coming out into the sunshine and blooming. Everyone had their 15 minutes of fame.

Well, not quite everyone. Somehow Dan Wallace managed to sneak in to Glasgow completely under the media radar. A quick online search for the new 400m individual swimming medley Commonwealth champion throws up precious few results that predate his momentous four minutes and 11 seconds in Tollcross pool on Friday night.

There were a few mentions of Pee-gate - his unfortunate brush with the law when he was caught urinating on a police car - but beyond that there had been little written about the 21-year-old's chances in this competition. In stark contrast to the publicity afforded fellow swimmers Michael Jamieson and Hannah Miley, in particular, Wallace's build-up to the Games had been very low-key indeed.

Part of that is down to the fact that for the past two years he has been studying anthropology at the University of Florida, something that has tied in nicely with his swimming programme. He has also arrived back home without the pedigree of having tasted success at previous major events, and was also not considered among the favourites to win his race. All those factors, he can say with the certainty of hindsight, came together in his favour.

"Being over in Florida the last year or so has probably helped me," he admitted. "I've not really been under the spotlight as much as Michael or Hannah. That took a lot of stress off. I came here as a fresh face and I just wanted to make Team Scotland proud. I think Friday night did that. It was unbelievable. I can't really explain what it feels like to walk out and hear that roar of energy from the whole of Scotland. I knew it was going to be loud, but I had no idea it was going to be like this. I am just enjoying every single moment, getting the whole crowd and the whole of Scotland involved."

This might only be the start of it for Wallace. He is set to compete again today in the 4x200m freestyle relay and then in the 200m individual medley on Tuesday. In the long-term he has even greater ambitions, most centring on making the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in two years' time and going once more for gold.

"I'm still a young swimmer and this taste of success has just motivated me even more to go on and do some great things," he said. "This is just the beginning for me. Team Scotland have now established themselves as some of the best swimmers and athletes in the world and we're really looking to build. There are going to be great things in the next four years.

"Scottish swimming is improving rapidly and 2016 can be a fantastic year for us. Friday night's performance for me will really help me towards Rio and the dream is to get that Olympic gold medal and I'll do everything I can to get it."

As memorable as his efforts in the pool on Friday night, so were his celebrations. "For Freedom!" he yelped upon realising the gold medal was his. The morning after, however, he played down any talk of that shriek as a political statement ahead of September's independence referendum, insisting he was merely paraphrasing from the movie film Braveheart.

"I've watched the film a bunch of times and it really gets you pumped up," he said. "But the other night was just a spontaneous reaction as I was on top of the world. We don't really talk about politics, we're just here to represent Team Scotland as well as we can and pick up as many medals as we can. The reaction from everyone since Friday has been amazing."

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