During the course of our conversation, Alyson Bell describes her ascent within British sprinting as “insane” countless times.

Her hyperbole is not unfounded.

Three years ago, when Bell was watching the Tokyo Olympics, never in her wildest dreams did she imagine she’d be pressing for selection for Paris 2024.

Rather, the sprinter envisaged potentially becoming an Olympian in 2028, or even 2032.

But such has been the progress of Scotland’s top sprinter, Bell is heading into this summer aiming to make a real push for the Olympics.

The 20-year-old from Glasgow first broke into the GB sprint relay squad last year, when she was part of the 4x100m team at the 2023 World Championships.

That selection was no flash in the pan, which was confirmed with her inclusion in GB’s 4x100m squad for the World Relays, which begins today in the Bahamas. 

“It’s insane to be where I am now,” says Bell of becoming a regular fixture in Britain’s sprint relay squad. 

“It’s massive to be in this relay squad from the very start of this season – it’s a huge confidence boost and definitely a step in the right direction towards where I want to be. It means I’m in the thoughts of the selectors right from the off which, hopefully, means everything’s falling into place.”

Alongside Bell in the Bahamas are her fellow Scots, Nicole Yeargin and Brodie Young, who are in the women’s and men’s 4x400m relays squads respectively.

Bell may be the youngest of the trio of Scots included in GB’s team this weekend but she’s by no means letting her youth hold her back.

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Over the past two seasons, Bell has made a quite incredible improvement, transforming herself from a teenage prospect to someone who is now a serious consideration for every major championship.

Having won European under-20 and under-23 relay gold medals, Bell’s first senior GB selection came last summer, for the World Championships in Budapest.

However, luck was not on her side, with the Scot being struck down by a bout of food poisoning on the eve of the relay heats, ruling her out of the running and preventing her from receiving a bronze medal after the GB squad finished third in the final.

It was, admits Bell, a devastating blow and there was a concern that was to be the end of her international selection.

She need not have worried, though.

As part of the British relay squad, Bell travelled to Stellenbosch in South Africa in January for a training camp and being around the great and the good of British sprinting ensured the young Scot was on the receiving end of much helpful advice.

“Because the training camp wasn’t leading up directly to a competition, everyone was more laid-back and I was able to pick the coaches’ brains,” says Bell.

“I learnt so much and it made me feel a lot more comfortable in where I am in my career. 

“Darren Campbell (a former Olympic champion) was there and it was great to speak to him. 

“I have a tendency to be too reserved and he said I just need to own everything I do. The thing with sprints, he said, is you need to believe you’re going to be the fastest. There’s no need to be polite or nice on the start line – not in a rude way but just having self-belief. So seeing someone like him who’s been through it all have that level of self-confidence was really interesting.”

While this weekend’s World Relays are a relatively important event to kick-off the season, almost every athletes’ focus is on selection for Paris 2024, and Bell is no different.

Having had a successful indoor season, which saw her set a new PB of 7.35 seconds, she heads into this summer knowing she has a realistic chance of being included in the women’s Olympic sprint relay squad alongside the likes of Dina Asher-Smith and Darryll Neita.

Bell admits she still can’t quite believe that becoming an Olympian may potentially materialise this summer, but she’s also mindful to appreciate just how impressive her improvement has been, regardless of whether or not she ultimately makes it to Paris this summer.

“Every so often, I think about the Olympics - I think it’s good to occasionally let yourself think about these big goals,” she says.

“When I was sitting at home watching the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, there wasn’t a thought in my mind that I’d be even close to being in Paris so it’s just so cool to be in what you’d call contention for an Olympic place because it’s just so unbelievable. Everyone dreams of the Olympics and I’m exactly the same.”

What’s helped Bell settle into her new-found status as a regular GB internationalist is that, incredibly, her flat-mate is on an almost identical journey.

Bell lives with Megan Keith in Edinburgh, where the pair are students at Edinburgh University with Keith, who has already secured the Olympic 10,000m qualifying time, looking a surefire bet to be included in Team GB for Paris 2024.

Both made their senior track GB debut at last summer’s World Championships and Bell admits it’s massively comforting having her great friend tread this unchartered ground alongside her.

The Herald: Bell and Megan Keith ae flatmates and are both aiming to make it to the Olympics this summerBell and Megan Keith ae flatmates and are both aiming to make it to the Olympics this summer

“With Megan, I feel like I have a partner in crime right alongside me which is so great,” she says. 

“Our events are completely different which is nice because there’s no competitiveness between us – we’re both just so happy to see each other doing well. 

“Last summer, it was a big deal to make the team for a major champs but I was doing it with Megan and you always feel that bit more comfortable when you’re with someone you know well.”

Bell’s plan for the coming months remains somewhat loose, with the one date certain in her calendar being the British Championships in June, which will double as the Olympic trials.

Olympic selection is, of course, the ultimate goal of this season but she’s also got her sights firmly set on breaking the Scottish 100m record, something she fell short of by just one hundredth of a second last season by running 11.31 seconds.

And so, with little pressure upon her shoulders, Bell is keen to make the most of the coming months.

“I feel in a good place,” she says.

“It’s such an open season - I have one race I know I have to show up for and that’s the British Champs and then other than that, I can do what suits me best.

“It’s been great being around the top British girls, it’s helped take me up a level so hopefully I can show that when I start racing.”