For all the medal-winning exploits Scotland’s top swimmers have had on the international stage in recent years, it’s the British Championships that’s their bread and butter. 

Without success at the national championships, they will be deprived of the opportunity to compete at the major international events at all. 

Even for the country’s very best swimmers, though, this meet is far from a formality. 

This year’s British Championships begin today at Ponds Forge in Sheffield and the pressure on the swimmers to perform over the next six days will be immense. 

This meet represents the sole qualifying opportunity for British swimmers to earn consideration for this year’s World Championships in July in Fukuoka, Japan. 

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Swimmers will earn selection by ensuring they are one of the top finishers in their event while also meeting or exceeding British Swimming’s qualification times. 

These qualification times will, however, even for the top swimmers, present a considerable challenge to achieve. 

As has happened consistently in recent seasons, British Swimming’s qualification times are faster than World Aquatics’ 'A' cuts and even, in some cases, the qualification time for particular events is faster than the current British record. 

There is the caveat that a maximum of eight additional selections may be made at the discretion of the performance director and the GB head coach but such cut-throat criteria inevitably makes for an exciting championship. 

Scottish eyes will primarily be on Duncan Scott.

The 25-year-old University of Stirling swimmer has been in sparkling form in recent seasons, returning from the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 with four medals before picking up six more at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last summer. 

However, the freestyle sprint specialist has vowed in recent times to broaden his horizons somewhat and has started to place considerable emphasis on the individual medley - so if Scott is anywhere close to his best over the next week, numerous titles are likely. 

The 200m freestyle final, in which Scott will face the man who beat him to the Olympic title in 2021, Tom Dean, is always a thrilling affair and is likely to be the race of the week. 

Scott’s fellow Olympic gold medallist, Kathleen Dawson, has had a more challenging time of things since the Olympics. 

After winning relay gold in Tokyo despite a persistent back problem, Dawson missed the entirety of last season, including the European Championships, World Championships and Commonwealth Games as a result of the long-standing injury. 

However, a lengthy period of rehab has, she hopes, got the bulging disc that was causing her such excruciating pain under control.  

READ MORE: Adam Peaty to miss Sheffield as he shares mental health struggle

The Kirkcaldy backstroker will need to be close to the form that saw her set British records in both the 50m and 100m backstroke in 2021 if she is to regain her place in the GB team and, in particular, overcome one of the up-and-coming talents of British swimming in Medi Harris. 

The rising star that is Katie Shanahan is aiming for selection for her first global international long-course championship, and following the teenager’s stunning 2022, in which she won both Commonwealth and European silverware in the backstroke and individual medley, will be targeting national success as she aims to prove that her move from Glasgow to the University of Stirling is paying dividends.

Olympian Lucy Hope has established herself as a regular in the GB team and the freestyle specialist will be looking to secure her place at the World Championships but in facing England’s Freya Anderson in both the 100m and 200m freestyle, will have her work cut out to grab the top step on the podium. 

Also worth watching out for will be Kara Hanlon in the sprint breaststroke events, with the Isle of Lewis native looking to make her first World Championships team. As fastest in the field in the 100m breaststroke, she’s got more than a fighting chance of booking her seat to Japan.

Keanna McInnes in the 100m butterfly, Archie Goodburn in the 50m breaststroke and Evie Davis in the 50m freestyle are also hopeful of doing enough to make the GB team. 

Olympic champions, Anna Hopkin, James Guy and Matt Richards will all be in action, and Ben Proud, Luke Greenbank, James Wilby, Abbie Wood and Lewis Burras are also odds-on to win titles and make the team for the World Championships. 

However, Adam Peaty, the triple Olympic champion, will be absent. 

The breaststroker withdrew from the meet last week citing mental health reasons. 

The 28-year-old said that he was “tired” and “not enjoying the sport as I have done for the last decade." 

“Everyone wants to sit in your seat, until they have to sit in your seat,” he added. “Very few people understand what winning and success does to an individual's mental health. 

“While I am continuing to train, I have decided to withdraw from the British Swimming Championships. 

“This is with the sole purpose of delivering the best performance possible in Paris at the 2024 Olympic Games.”