When Kathleen Dawson could only hobble after a severe knee injury in 2018 marooned her on dry land for several months, it was the dream of competing at an Olympic Games that helped alleviate the physical pain and the mental anguish.

Rebuilt to be stronger and quicker than ever before, the 23-year-old from Kirkcaldy now knows her cherished ambition is tantalisingly close.

A hat-trick of victories at the British Swimming Invitational in Manchester underlined Dawson’s domestic supremacy in the backstroke, and laid down some markers with the all-important trials for Tokyo less than five weeks away.

If there is more of the same in London, she can plan her route towards Japan.

Victorious on Saturday in the 100 metres backstroke in 58.65 seconds, only Gemma Spofforth has gone quicker among British women. Her European record of 58.12, however, was set in 2009 during the era of now-banished non-textile suits. Dawson also enhanced her list of Scottish records yesterday over 200m, powering clear from lane one to clock 2:09.44.

Returning from a year without long-course competition,she felt well within her revamped comfort zone.

“I expected to go a 58, because I’ve been swimming so well at the time trials we’ve been having in Stirling,” she said.

There, her training partner Cassie Wild has been pushing her onward and stoking her fires, to mutual benefit. The 20-year-old was second over both distances with an Olympic qualifying standard now officially credited to her with her time of 59.56 secs over 100m.

“It’s a nice place to be in, leading up to trials,” Wild acknowledged. “It’s good how I’ve had Kath to train with. Doing time trials is not the same but it’s good to have some sort of race practice. It fills me with confidence going into the trials. It’s nice to have that reassurance, especially after having such a long time out of the water, coming back in a better position than I was before.”

Duncan Scott was another going back to Stirling with a better sense of his fitness and form. He matched Dawson with his own third triumph last night by edging Tom Dean in the 200m freestyle by just five-hundredths of a second in 1:46.70.

Supreme in the 100m freestyle and 200m individual medley on Saturday, the double Olympic medallist looked assured in all three of his intended individual events for Tokyo.

“With the way people have been swimming, it’s just been good to get in and just race and put myself out there,” the 23-year-old said. “I’ve been doing some racing in Stirling but to come here and race some other guys has been really fun. It was so tight and that’s going to be good for trials and the 4x200m relay as well.”

Ross Murdoch came off second best in his dress rehearsal for his primary pursuit at the Olympic trials, losing to chief rival James Wilby in the 200m breaststroke final by over a second.

Anna Hopkin clocked 54.44 secs to pull off a surprise win over Freya Anderson in the women’s 100m freestyle final with Lucy Hope third, while Keanna Macinnes finished second to Harriet Jones in the 100m butterfly.

Meanwhile, paralympic silver medallist Scott Quin tuned up for his Tokyo trials with a S14 200m breaststroke British record of 2:27.83.