EVERY year since 2014, Ross Murdoch has won an individual medal at a major championships. Every year except 2017 that is. The 23 year-old has one more chance this year to win individual silverware - at the European Short-Course Championships which begin in Copenhagen on Wednesday.

Murdoch has not spent this weekend resting and relaxing in preparation for the Europeans though; rather, he has been in the thick of competition at the Scottish Short-Course Championships at the Royal Commonwealth Pool in Edinburgh.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly though, with two days gone, Murdoch has yet to pick up a Scottish title. On Friday evening, he was pipped to 50m breaststroke gold by his long-time rival and University of Stirling teammate Craig Benson while last night, Benson once again got the better of the Commonwealth Games gold medallist, beating him to the wall by a fraction of a second in the 100m breaststroke final.

Murdoch has another chance to finish the weekend with a title when he goes in the 200m breaststroke this evening but despite his defeats over the first two days of competition, Murdoch is not disheartened. He is not, as he readily admits himself, a short-course specialist and in fact, has been positively encouraged by his form over the past couple of days. “I feel in really good shape – my body composition is much better than it’s ever been at this time of year,” he said. “We measure our skinfolds and I’m down about ten millimetres compared to what I usually am. I’m in great nick and my training has been going fantastic. I’m home about six weeks now after a block of altitude training and I’m feeling really fit.”

Murdoch admits that he wasn’t aware that 2017 was the first year in which he had failed to win an individual medal since he burst onto the public’s consciousness with his Commonwealth Games gold medal on day one of Glasgow 2014. With the 2018 Commonwealth Games now less than four months away, Murdoch’s priority is preparing himself to peak in Gold Coast and these short-course races are all about working on weaknesses ahead of defending his Commonwealth title. “I’m looking forward to going out to Copenhagen – short-course isn’t my forte but I’m looking forward to the challenge,” he said. “The short-course season is all about skills for me – it’s about practicing starts and turns and things that you can implement later on in the season. In the 200m breaststroke in short-course, I’ll do seven turns in comparison to three in a long-course race so I’ve got an extra four turns where I can practice.”

However, Murdoch did not get to where he is without being a competitive animal and he admits that returning from Copenhagen with some silverware next week has crossed his mind. “I’d absolutely love to say that I’m good at short-course swimming," he revealed. "I don’t think I’m as bad as I think I am and I don’t think I give myself enough credit sometimes because I wasn’t far off making the final last year at the World Short-Course Champs and I had no right to go as fast as I did given the shape I was in. I’m fairly confident about the shape I’m in at the moment so we’ll see how it goes.”

The man who has twice got the better of Murdoch this weekend, Benson, is not racing the European Short-Course Championships but ahead of what will be his second Commonwealth Games, is in impressive form. “At this point in the season, it’s about racing hard so it was great to get the wins,” he said. Having had a tough eighteen months, including not performing to his best at the Rio Olympic Games, Benson has been through the mill but having come out the other side, he feels that he is in a great place ahead of Gold Coast 2018. And having had a hectic schedule combining his studies at Stirling University with his training, he is pleasantly surprised how good his performances currently are. “I’ve had a lot of late nights with focusing on my uni work because I’ve been trying to get that out of the way so that I can focus on Gold Coast. So it’s great to still be in good shape despite that and I know that I can now build on that in the new year.”

At the European Short-Course Championships, Murdoch will be joined in the 10-strong GB team by his fellow Scots Kathleen Dawson, as well as Duncan Scott, who won the Scottish 200m individual medley title last night.