Absence, apparently, makes the heart fonder. It’s little surprise, then, that the UK’s best swimmers are embracing their return to action with passion and zeal.

Twelve months to the weekend since the plug was pulled due to Covid, Duncan Scott has had a long wait for the opportunity to compete again on the long-course stage. Unleashed with barely a month to go until the domestic trials for Tokyo’s Olympics, Alloa’s aquatic tyro signalled he is locked and loaded for the intense spring and summer ahead with a double victory at the British Swimming Invitational in Manchester.

He was not at his magnificent best, but he knows now is not the time to turn his gears up to the max. Yet these were good tests to prove that his coach Steve Tigg has astutely managed the hiatus at their Stirling University base. Creditably, the contingent of Games hopefuls there appears to have emerged from lockdown with no slippage at all.

Scott, 23, was never destined to rest on the laurels of his two relay silvers in Rio five years ago. Individual accolades are now the mission driving him on. He won the 200 metres individual medley ahead of Joe Litchfield in 1:59.36 with a speedy push for the finish.

Then, he once again saved his finest to last in the 100m freestyle final, overhauling Tom Dean by one-tenth of a second in 49.09.

“I train to do doubles like that so I don’t think that was really anything,” he said. “It was just good I was able to execute the races the way that I wanted. There are some boys in there swimming really quickly and it was good to go up against the 200 IM boys.

“It’s a year since I raced at the Edinburgh International so it was good to get back out there. I really enjoyed it. The 100 free was really tight. It was almost replicating what trials will be like.”

Like Scott, Kathleen Dawson’s excursions during the past year have been limited to the short-course splash and dash of the autumn’s International Swimming League.

In a similar vein to her Stirling colleague, the 23-year-old is making up for lost time. She swept into top spot in the world rankings by twice breaking the Scottish 100m backstroke record yesterday, clocking 59.36 seconds in the morning heats, then becoming the second-quickest Briton of all time by winning the final in 58.65.

Her training partner Cassie Wild was also well inside the Olympic qualifying standard with a second place in 59.56. Tokyo beckons for both.

Sidelined when she tore knee ligaments in a freak poolside accident in 2018, Dawson is fully restored.

“Even after Covid, I think I’m a stronger athlete for it,” the Fifer said. “I’ve just kept at it, kept the belief up that I can be one of the best backstrokers in the UK. And that’s what I’m here to do. I definitely want to be on that plane to the Olympics. That’s the goal.”

Tokyo medal prospect Freya Anderson held off Abbie Wood in the women’s 200m freestyle to win in 1:58.23, world record holder Adam Peaty picked up his second win by taking the 50m breaststroke in 26.80 secs while Stirling-based Nick Pyle won the men’s 50m backstroke ahead of City of Glasgow prospect Mark Ford.

Paralympic hopeful Toni Shaw, meanwhile, obliterated the Scottish S9 200m freestyle record by almost 23 seconds with a time of 2:16.40 and then secured a British record of 31.83 secs in the 50m butterfly.