Marooned on dry land during a painfully prolonged sporting quarantine, Jack Thorpe’s sanity depended on adding new tricks to his repertoire. “I learnt juggling,” the Commonwealth swimming medallist confesses. “I’m up to four or five balls now.”

Anything to distract himself from the abnormality of being locked out of a pool while pining for the doors to be re-opened at his base at the University of Edinburgh. These remain exceptional times, even though the implementation of public health protocols permitted his group to resume training six weeks ago.

Now 26, Thorpe has heard tales of being taken to his local baths in Glasgow and learning to paddle before he could crawl. Second nature, hence. “Even with summer breaks, I can’t have gone more than six weeks without swimming,” he muses. “We quadrupled that this year, maybe?”

Absence, in his case, made the heart fonder beyond compare. “The night before we got back in, I was struggling to sleep a bit, just with the anticipation,” he reveals. “Mentally, I was thinking about what it would feel like to be submerged in water again. Because I’d not done any sea swimming or open water. Getting reinvolved was so interesting, just the sensations and feel of it. But it all came back pretty quickly.”

It sums up the emotional disequilibrium which has served to confound since Covid-19 was unleashed upon the world. Financial jabs have pummelled sport against the ropes while the decimation of the calendar that saw the Olympic Games erased from 2020 felt a gut punch. Yet the sternest cuffings were inflicted to the head, the mental blow from being separated from routines and crafts that had been practiced forever and a day.

“We did give everyone a programme,” Thorpe’s coach Chris Jones confirms. “To their credit, no-one dropped off or came back out of shape.” The application of an elite performer coming into its own. Not without occasional self-motivational dialogue, Thorpe suggests.

“It would have been so easy to disengage. I had a few moments. But I managed to stay pretty locked in. Arthur’s Seat is on my doorstep so I was cycling around that. I did 109 laps during lockdown which I worked out was the equivalent of doing Everest twice. That paid off.”

Tokyo’s Games, rescheduled and assuredly reimagined, now sit ten months away once again. Thorpe, absent from the Lottery-funded squad that British Swimming unveiled this week, is surely aware he has a mountain to scale to push himself into the frame for selection.

The 53 chosen include the default team for Japan, plus promising juniors such as Scottish teens Katie Shanahan and Archie Goodburn, outside bets for a summons to the Far East next August but deemed bankers to be called upon in Paris in 2024.

Thorpe came sixth in his prime event – the 50 metres freestyle - at the British trials for Rio 2016, held in his hometown. Ben Proud, subsequently to become world champion, won out. Had the Games gone ahead last month as originally planned, the Scot insists, he was fully equipped to challenge.

“The trajectory I was on, the times I posted, I was improving,” he proclaims. “I’ve always planned to go on to the 2022 Commonwealths in Birmingham. So Tokyo is still another opportunity.”

An asset in his portfolio resides not too far away. Duncan Scott is positioned to be the freestyler supreme in 2021. Days prior to global shuttering in March, the double Olympic medallist wrestled the Scottish 50m long course record away from his frequent team-mate, one to accompany the short course version he had previously poached from Thorpe.

“Duncan is a once in a generation swimmer,” he shrugs. “He’s setting standards for all of us. I’ve been on teams with him and at camps, Just as a mate, we keep in touch. And there’s nothing wrong with him breaking the records. They are there to be broken. I held the short course record for nearly seven years and long course for two.”

Catching the present master is a ballsy but advantageous ambition, he adds. “Who is to say I won’t beat it, and then Duncan beats it again? That’s driving me.”