SCOTT MCLAY’S career is taking off. The pandemic may have delayed the 21-year-old’s ambition to compete at this year’s Olympics but, beyond that, the University of Stirling swimmer remains in a positive frame of mind.

Having taken another year off from his studies to focus on improving in the pool, the Perth athlete has landed a spot in British Swimming’s world class Podium programme and on the London Roar team for the second edition of the International Swimming League (ISL).

Due to travel restrictions, the multi-starred event will now be held in one five-week block in Hungary, with McLay joining Stirling team-mate Duncan Scott, Adam Peaty, James Guy and others in a stellar line-up.

The ISL was founded with a view to giving swimmers more of a platform and profile and McLay is eager to get involved.

“I’m absolutely buzzing to get in and get going,” he said “We’ve not been able to race much this year so it will be good just to get rolling again and see what I can do.

“I followed it closely last year and the morale that every team seemed to have was amazing. Swimming is such an individual sport outside of the relays but watching the ISL last year you could really sense the team dynamic. I’m in with a really strong group so it will be interesting to see how well we do.

“Swimming doesn’t get much publicity apart from around the Olympics and at that point everyone seems to love it. And then a few weeks later they forget about it again and it’s back for the four-year wait to get back in the spotlight.

“The ISL has helped push swimming back onto people’s screens and to remind them that it’s a very exciting sport to watch. It’s something that swimming needed and we’ll see how the event develops over the next few years. It should hopefully raise the profile both of the sport but also of the individual swimmers as well.

“We’re there for around six weeks in total which will be the longest I’ve ever been away from home for one meet. There will be protocols in place that mean you need to spend a lot of time in your room by yourself so I think the downtime will be the hardest part of it. But your team-mates and others will be around to help.”

McLay is philosophical about the Olympics being delayed by a year and reckons it might even help his prospects of qualifying for Tokyo.

“This year has been a setback for everyone but it’s just how you want to look at it,” he added. “We’re all in the same situation so it’s just about trying to get everything right to get myself on that plane for 2021.

“My main event is 100m freestyle and the prime age range for that is thought to be between 21 and 26.

“So, if anything, the delay is going to suit me more. I’ll have another year’s worth of training and experience behind me by then. I’m 21 now and feel like I’m just coming into my peak years.

“One of the main reasons that I wanted to come to Stirling Uni was to feed off all the experiences and talent of the people here. It’s a great environment to learn from the likes of Ross [Murdoch] and Duncan. When the sessions are really tough, you know you’ll have someone like Ross behind you pushing you all the way to make sure you get the maximum out of yourself. And we all do that for each other.”

McLay’s other non-swimming goal is to qualify as a pilot having already started his training.

“I probably owe it to the university to go back and finish my [sports] degree at some point although my end goal is to become a pilot, either commercial or corporate. I’m looking to go to aviation school to get my private pilot’s license and then build up experience but there are quite a lot of steps you need to go through before you’re allowed to fly.

“My dad flies as a hobby so he’s the one that got me into it. We go flying any time I go over to California to see him which is where he lives. In 2018 I went over there and got half of my license done but I’ll need to get back out there and renew it all as it’s only valid for so long.

“We’re going to have a lot of downtime in our rooms in Budapest so I’ll take my pilot stuff with me and that will help keep me going.”