It says everything about Rebecca McGowan’s aspirations that when she departed last year’s World Taekwondo Championships with a bronze medal around her neck, the overwhelming emotion was disappointment.

The Dumbarton fighter, who turned 23 last weekend, has established herself not only as Scotland’s stand-out fighter in the sport but also one of the best in the world.

Unless she departs a tournament with gold these days, rarely is she entirely happy with the result and it is that World Championships blow that will, she believes, push her on to a better result at this year’s event which begins today, in Baku, Azerbaijan.

“Every day, I go into training thinking about the last time I lost. No one wants to feel as bad as losing makes me feel, do they? It’s literally the worst feeling you can imagine. Every day in training, I’d remind myself about how I felt and I know I don’t want to feel like that again,” she says.

“It’s difficult when you go into a competition knowing you’ve got the ability to win it and then coming away without the gold, especially if you feel like it was down to your own mistakes.

“So at last year’s Worlds, I was disappointed with bronze. I know getting a World medal is still a good achievement but I definitely won’t be happy coming away with another bronze medal this time.”

McGowan’s year has gone well. Based at GB Taekwondo’s headquarters in Manchester, the Scot trains daily alongside the likes of double Olympic champion Jade Jones and triple world champion Bianca Walkden as well as a raft of male fighters who regularly beat her up as she searches to find those few per cent of improvement in her own performance.

It is this environment that has cultivated her lofty ambitions of becoming World champion over the next week.

“In the GB squad, you’ve always got someone to look up to and think they’ve done it, so I can too. Training with people who’ve been there and done it makes you believe you can do it too, and you learn their tips and tricks,” the -73kgs fighter says.

“This year, my training has been going really well and this is the best I’ve felt in a long time so hopefully I take it into the Worlds.

“Recently, I’ve been pushing myself to fight boys in training more and that puts you in much more uncomfortable situations and so it’s about embracing those uncomfortable situations. And then, when you get into competition, you’re used to getting beaten up by boys so no girl compares to that so it seems much more manageable.”

McGowan had few intentions of the sport becoming a long-lasting part of her life let along competing for world titles when she started in the sport as a child.

Rather, her reason for beginning taekwondo was to be able to hold when she got into a fight with one of her friends.

“When I was young, there was a boy who lived across the street from me and one day, we’d be best friends and then the next day, we’d argue and fight. Like full physical fights.

“He used to beat me up but then the next day we’d be back to being friends,” she says.

“I found out he did taekwondo and so I thought I’m not going to let him get the upper hand and so I started it too and wanted to be better than him.

“I loved learning how to fight – it was so exciting. And because I fell in love with the sport, it felt easy to continue. And so it all grew from there.”

McGowan’s short-term aim may be world gold but her longer-term goal of the Olympic Games is already looming large.

As a reserve for the 2020 Olympics, McGowan travelled to Tokyo and so saw first-hand much of the Olympic experience.

The trip only served to strengthen an already strong desire to reach the pinnacle of her sport – the Olympic podium.

“Tokyo was the best experience ever,” she says. “And being there really added a fire to my belly that I’d never felt before.

“I’m not going to have the feeling again of flying home early. I want to be the one fighting.”

Reaching Paris 2024 will not be easy. McGowan will be battling the long-established Walkden for a place in her weight category and while being up against a former world champion and two-time Olympic medallist would be a daunting prospect for many, McGowan is embracing the challenge.

“We’ll both be going out this year to really make our mark at the majors, and the World Championships this week is obviously a big one for Olympic qualification”, she says.

“Previously, everything I did was for the Olympics. I ate, slept and breathed for the Olympics but that can put a bit of unnecessary pressure on you so I’ve had to learn to switch.

“I just want to go out and show how good I can be and enjoy every minute of the fights and of training. And by doing that, I’ll get the results.

“It doesn’t matter how much I worry about the Olympics off the mat, all that matters is what I do on the mat and so that’s what I’m focusing on.”