Coping with the sheer magnitude of an Olympic Games can often be the toughest opponent of all. Years of training, often with the whisper of a sports psychologist in the ear, have been geared to bring a performer to the stage with lines learnt and direction no longer required. Under the spotlights, with an audience of billions watching, it can suddenly become the loneliest of places. The fright sets in, the sense of calm evaporates.

Ross Murdoch will walk out in front of a shade shy of 15,000 screaming swimming supporters tomorrow afternoon and vow to flourish rather than flounder. The occasion will be a test, no doubt, the 22-year-old acknowledges. But it will feed his quest to triumph in the 100 metres breaststroke rather than starve it to death.

“I look at the emotional side of things,” the Scot declares. “Like getting caught up in a bad race. It’s just one of these things that emotionally, I put heart and soul into it. I put everything on this.” It fuels his competitive fires. “I’m 100 per cent invested emotionally and physically into what I’m doing. Some people can show up, do laps, and turn off. I’m not wired that way. I swim every lap. I’m not away daydreaming. I’m constantly thinking.”

About how to gain the maximum traction from every stroke. About earning the largest momentum possible from a push off the wall. To gain priceless fractions of a second from the dive into the pool. It has been all-consuming process, centred at his base at the University of Stirling but supplemented in waters far and wide.

The younger Murdoch had no such obsessions. This was a diversion rather than a career. “I was never that bothered about swimming when I was young,” he affirms. “I always wanted to get things but I wasn’t bothered about being world-class at swimming until I got to about 18, which is when I made the European juniors.

“I was training three or four times a week to 2012. It was OK. But August 2011 was when I started to screw the nut and turn it on because I wanted to make the Commonwealth Games. Two seasons later I made them - and I got a gold medal and that spurred me to up the training. Before that I wasn’t too motivated. I just had an idea.”

Now he has the greatest incentive possible to screw every gramme of talent out of his arms and legs. There may be relay runs to come but a medal of his own would trump any gained as a collective. To become an Olympic champion, his toughest foe is closest at hand. Adam Peaty, world champion and world record beater with astonishing regularity, held off the Scot at this year’s European Championships in London and would expect him to fall short in applying the finishing touch to an already impeccable body of work.

“The big thing is I see him domestically all the time,” Murdoch acknowledges. If it helps at all, the man from Derbyshire has been de-mystified. “I’ve known Adam since the last Olympic trials in 2012. We shared a room together at European juniors.” And now they have arrived in unison in Rio.

He will pursue Peaty relentlessly until the wall arrives and both emerge above the tide to learn their fates. It could be in the smallest of details where it is decided, Murdoch says. In this game of centimetres, nothing at all has been left to chance.

“We do a lot of work on the processes. Trials, although it wasn’t my best ever competition, looking at the small ins and outs of the race: the walls, my starts, my processes were as fast as they’ve ever been. It’s just about going in to get a personal best and that’s what I want this year.

“Because even when Rio’s long gone, I’m still going to be swimming. I won’t be retiring. I’m driven to swim for a good few seasons yet so I want to be in a position where I keep improving. This is only one stop on the journey.”