Craig McNally will take the plunge in Edinburgh today (Friday) and begin the chase for a fourth Commonwealth Games appearance at the age of 29.

The Scottish short course championships will throw him back in at the deep end after taking it easy for a few months. Retirement, the backstroke specialist admits, will have to wait.

“When Olympic year was 2020, I was going to finish, no matter what,” he said. “But then because of Covid, and it getting delayed another year, it kind of meant that Commonwealth Games was a short time away. And it seems like too much of an opportunity to miss.”

Others, like Hannah Miley and Aimee Willmott, have thought differently in recent weeks and called it quits. But although an Olympic appearance has always just eluded the Great Britain international, McNally has enough fire left in his belly to be back in at dawn six times a week at his Stirling University base.

Funds have been scraped together so he can remain full-time. A Sportscotland grant. A raid on the bank of Mum and Dad.

Even though the finish line is fast approaching, it is worth a little short-term pinch in his wallet despite an awareness that he will not be among those this weekend who are on the first leg of a journey that may end up in Paris in 2024.

But he said: “Even from a young age when I started swimming, it wasn't about being the best. Obviously, it was my target and there's a process and I love the target of trying to beat people in the race. I love that side of it. But I actually really just enjoy training and everything that comes with it.

“That monotonous following the black line at the bottom of the pool or staring at the ceiling. Being able to push myself to try and be better every day. That enjoyment hasn't gone away. And so the only reason, which is a very big, valid reason, to stop swimming would be for the money, and to find myself a career and to move on. But I'm still enjoying it and I know I only really have one shot at swimming.”

The Edinburgh bill includes Olympian relay finalist Lucy Hope, teen prospect Katie Shanahan ahead of her senior debut for the UK at next week’s world championships in Abu Dhabi, and McNally’s fellow old stager: the two-time Olympian Craig Benson.

Time out of the pool has mean extra time in the gym, McNally reveals. He has until April, to Team Scotland’s trials in Birmingham, to re-attain the peak form that took him to Delhi, Glasgow and Gold Coast and world championships in between.

His hometown, over three days, should offer an insight into where he stands.

“When I was in discussions with the coaches, and even family and friends, about what my plans were, this was the only competition that I knew that I'd be able to do for the first six months of the season. And it's an interesting one. I love competing at Scottish short course.

“Whether I'm going to be targeting my best times or whether I'm going to be a bit back on that, or maybe I'll be getting beaten, there's a bit of dipping my toes and just see where I'm at.”