SWIMMING’S European Championships would ordinarily be a big deal in their own right but in an Olympic year they take on the feel of the appetiser ahead of the main course.

Cassie Wild is certainly viewing it in that light, the Edinburgh-born backstroker one of nine Scots named yesterday in the British squad that will head to Budapest next month.

This has been quite the week for the 20 year-old whose place at her first Olympics was also confirmed, vindication at the end of a year in which the rest of the world stopped and she got going.

The Stirling University swimmer credits lockdown for giving her the chance to restore her failing confidence and push her way into elite contention.

She is honest enough to concede that medals and even individual finals may be beyond her at the Olympics this year but she hopes to use her swims at the Euros to build momentum before peaking in Tokyo later in the summer.

“To be honest, I think lockdown was the best thing that could have happened to me,” she said.

“During that I gained a lot of confidence and if anything it made me more determined to get back in and really improve. I feel that explains why I’ve been swimming so well.

“Before lockdown I had plateaued a fair bit when transitioning from junior to senior. And that knocked my confidence quite a lot.

“And then just before lockdown I had a personal best in February, the first for about three years. So when we went into lockdown I felt quite motivated to keep going.

“I did a lot of work over lockdown, cycling every day and had weights bench at home. I did workouts with Scottish Swimming. I knew I had put in the work so when we came back I felt quite confident in myself.

“I just want to use the Euros as a platform to swim as fast as I can in Tokyo. A lot of it will be a learning experience and gaining more confidence. The last time I was on a team was 2018 so it’s been a while since I’ve been on a big stage.”

Fellow Scots Kathleen Dawson, Duncan Scott, Ross Murdoch, Lucy Hope, Katie Shanahan, Keanna Macinnes, Emma Russell and Evelyn Davis will also be part of the 40-strong British squad that will compete from May 17 to 23.

For Wild, it represents another step on the journey to fulfilling her childhood ambition of competing at an Olympics.

“I always have to point out how late I started swimming,” she added. “So I wasn’t learning to swim and thinking, ‘oh I want to be an Olympian’.

“It wasn’t until the 2012 Games that I saw an actual Olympics and thought I’d really like to do that. I remember looking at the crowd and how many people were there.

“I thought it looked amazing and I would love to do that. I’ve qualified now but it still doesn’t seem real to me yet.

“I feel like I need to be on the plane and then I’ll think, ‘yeah I’m definitely going now’.

“But I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself as it’s the biggest thing I’ve done so far in my career.

“I would obviously love to make the final but if my best doesn’t get me there then at least I’ll know there’s no more I could have done.

“Then hopefully by 2024 I’ll be in a better position and definitely thinking about finals.

“I would love to be in the relays as I feel we’re going to be strong this year. Even if it was just the heat I feel it would be a really good experience to have done that.”

It seems a paradox of sorts but Wild also used lockdown to work on her baking skills alongside improving her fitness while the pools were closed.

But there will be no British Bake Off-style competitions in the athletes’ village in Tokyo.

“I was baking over lockdown as I didn’t have to worry as much about what I was eating or the weight I was at,” she admits.

“And then when things got a bit more serious again I had to stop. It was just something to take my mind off the fact I couldn’t train at the start. It was nice to have something not to do with swimming.

“I’m really good at making cookies and brownies. And when I get back from the Olympics I’ll probably start again.”