THERE are few swimmers in the world who are involved in training sessions quite like the ones that Mark Szaranek takes part in daily.

The University of Florida-based 22-year-old from Kirkcaldy trains alongside Ryan Lochte, the American who is a 6-time Olympic gold medallist and is widely considered the best individual medley swimmer in the history of the sport. There are many factors that have contributed to Szaranek’s improvement over the past couple of years, but going head-to-head with someone of the calibre of Lochte is a privilege that few enjoy and has played a huge part in his leap forward. And it ensures that Szaranek goes into every competitive race with the confidence that he will never be out of his depth.

“Ryan’s a good guy - I think he’s been pretty misrepresented in the US media to be honest because he’s great,” he said.

“Having someone like him alongside you every day is amazing. He’s literally the best IM swimmer ever so to train with him is pretty incredible. And I can compete with him in practice so that gives me so much belief that I can compete with anyone in the world.

“So when I get to the major meets, it’s not like I’m up against something I’ve never seen before, which is really helpful.”

Szaranek illustrated that belief earlier this year when he returned from the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast with a silver medal from the 400m IM, as well as a bronze medal in the 4x200m freestyle medley.

Szaranek admits that at the time, he was a touch disappointed about missing out on an individual gold medal but having had some time to reflect on his Commonwealth Games debut he is, he acknowledges, satisfied with his result and it has given him he confidence that when it comes to the crunch, he can produce the big performance when it really matters.

“The plan was always to go for gold but silver is a decent consolation prize,” he said.

“Next time I’ll be looking for the win though. There is a touch of disappointment but I’m really happy to have come away with something. To have swum a 2 second personal best is really good – but you’re always looking for more.

“This has built my confidence and let me know that I can compete at that level. I always believed that I could do that but to go out to Gold Coast and actually execute it is another thing and so I’m really happy that I was able to do that. So hopefully I can take that knowledge and experience forward and use it to my benefit.”

Szaranek will spend the remainder of the summer in Florida before he returns to the UK for the European Championships in August, which will be part of Glasgow 2018.

And having missed out on a home Commonwealth Games in 2014, he is thrilled to have the opportunity to compete in a major championship on Scottish soil and he will go into the event optimistic of adding to this year's medal haul.

“To have a home Europeans coming up is really exciting,” he said.

“And I’m feeling confident. I believe I can go in there and swim best times again – I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be able to do that. And if I am able to do that, I’m confident that I’ll put myself right in the mix for medals.”