THIS is what makes it all worthwhile. The days when Duncan Scott’s alarm went off at half five in the morning, when it was still pitch black outside, and raining, and the desire to hit the snooze button and go back to sleep, to forget the whole thing, was very tempting indeed. The days that consisted of little more than swimming length after length until his body ached and his mind glazed over with the sheer repetition of it all. The weekends when he had to say no to the parties, no to the late nights, the drunken rites of passage, the shared moments with friends, the hangovers, the laughs, and the tears. The travelling, the jetlag, the nights spent half-asleep in airport terminals or slumped wearily in hotel receptions somewhere in the world. The ice baths, the recovery sessions, the hours in the gym. It has all led to this.

As he walks out to his starting block next weekend, the 19-year-old may fleetingly think about all the sacrifices he has made over a decade-long journey. There were times, he admits, when he wondered whether it was all worth it. But now as he prepares to compete in his first Olympic Games – four years ahead of schedule – he is hopeful it was.

“Two or three years ago I was getting up at 5.30am to swim, then had school all day, and then had to swim again at night,” says the University of Stirling student, one of the Sunday Herald's Six to Follow. “And it was dark all day and you weren’t enjoying the sessions. So there were tough times. Every year around December and January time when it’s Scotland at its worst weather, you’re doing loads of metres in the pool and it feels like a slog. It would be a lie if people said they loved every minute of every day. There are moments when you think about quitting but that’s when your coach speaks to you and gives you encouragement and tells you it will be a worthwhile. And hopefully this shows it is.”

It is not a case of job done, however. Scott has set his personal bar a lot higher than simply reaching the Olympics. He does not expect to win a medal in his chosen individual event – the 100m freestyle, where he is British champion – but he believes it would be wrong to think reaching Rio represents a triumph in itself.

“Going to the Olympics is a good achievement but just being happy with going isn’t a good achievement - if that makes sense,” he explains. “All the hard work that I’ve done can be measured by the fact I’ve made the team. But if I don’t really go for it when I’m there than that all counts for nothing. If I’m just happy that I’m on the team then I’ve not achieved anything. I need to do something when I’m there.

“This time there aren’t any expectations on me individually. The semi-final would be a bonus, reaching the final would be a massive bonus. But I’ll be disappointed if I don’t swim close to best times. I hope the occasion will bring the best out of me, although different people react differently.

“Ross [Murdoch] loves the big occasions. That’s when he swims his best as we’ve seen at the Europeans, Commonwealths, and the worlds. Other people are amazing in their hometown but don’t perform as well when they’re abroad. I can’t say I’m like Ross yet as I’ve not been to as many competitions. But there is still time for me to get to that level.”

Even at the Olympics there will be a chance to learn and develop. Scott and coach Steve Tigg will watch the routines of the likes of Michael Phelps, the greatest ever Olympian, and Ryan Lochte and store away the information for future use.

“It will be quite cool to see Phelps in the flesh, see what he looks like close up,” adds Scott who will also compete in the 4x200m freestyle and 4x100m medley relay events. “But more importantly it will be useful to see what he and the others do before a race, how they warm up, what they do after a race and the like. I can then talk to Steve and see what he thinks. Maybe we’ll notice Phelps or Lochte do something different in their warm ups and we’ll think maybe I could incorporate some of that into my own build-up. There is always scope for learning. This is sort of a bonus Olympics for me as 2020 was the goal initially. So I need to pick up as much as I can when I’m there.”