|2018 Commonwealth Games|
|Venue: Gold Coast, Australia Dates: 4-15 April|
|Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV and Red Button with extra streams on Connected TVs, BBC Sport website and app; listen on Radio 5 live; follow text updates online. Times and channels|
Sometimes, in this game, you have to take a big step back to fully appreciate what is going on around you, to soak in the brilliance of the occasion.
There we were, a little before 10pm Gold Coast time, looking down at the starting blocks for the 4x100m medley, the race in this most magnificent arena that would bring the curtain down on swimming at these Commonwealth Games.
At one end, the Scottish team trying to upset the odds against the Australians, the English and the South Africans. At the other end, Saltires and songs.
A banner went up with the word ‘Slam’ emblazoned on it, as in Slam Dunc, as in Duncan Scott, the 20-year-old bidding for his seventh medal, a haul that would have put him in the most exalted company you could possibly imagine.
Chad le Clos, an Olympic champion, won seven medals at the Games in Glasgow four years ago. Ian Thorpe, the five-time Olympic champion, won seven in Manchester 16 years ago. Michael Klim, the double Olympic champion, won seven in Kuala Lumpur 20 years ago.
That’s the pantheon that Scott was looking to join. He missed out, but only by 0.36 seconds. Scotland finished an agonising fourth.
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Talking to the media afterwards, he crouched down and covered his face. Exhaustion, for sure, but maybe a touch of emotion in there too.
Scott doesn’t come across as the kind of young man who shares his true feelings in front of strangers, but if he was overcome, just for a millisecond, you could have understood it. For him, this has been a week to savour.
The exciting part is that nobody knows how high he can soar in this game, but the finding out will be a joy. He has been exhilarating. Scotland’s athlete of the Games.
The last act in the relay was his 12th swim in six days. His 11th had been less than two hours before. His 11th swim and his sixth medal, this time in an event that he says he’s still learning, the 200m individual medley.
The host nation that ignored his chances in the blue riband 100m freestyle final on Sunday had now woken up to what they were dealing with here.
Australia, a swimming superpower that ended these Games with 73 swimming medals, 28 of them gold, had bypassed Scott’s chances of challenging any of the three home favourites in that final at the weekend.
For the life of them they couldn’t see beyond Kyle Chalmers, a class act who was swimming in front of his own people and in the event he owned at the Olympics.
There were mentions of a second Aussie that night – Cameron McEvoy – and a third – Jack Cartwright. Mentions of Scott? Zero.
Watching all of this unfold in his Brisbane home, the exiled Scot, Gregor Tait, found it hilarious. Tait, who won four medals in the pool in Melbourne in 2006, was talking the other night about Scott and how no Australian saw him coming in that 100m final. “In fairness, it was hard to look past Chalmers,” he said.
“But it was very funny that nobody here was mentioning Scott. I found it very amusing. My wife, Alice, won two Olympic golds in the pool for Australia in Athens and I said to her, ‘I’m having a wee bet on Dunc’. And I never have a bet.”
The same Australia media folk who didn’t give Scott a mention on Sunday were now paying attention.
Mitch Larkin, the serial winner, was their favourite in the individual medley. Clyde Lewis was most definitely in the reckoning. Two Aussies with a killer instinct. Scott was given respect. He was seen as the danger. The one who could upset the party.
And how close he came. What is utterly thrilling about watching him race is the storming finishes he produces, like a thoroughbred in the Derby finding a gap and kicking for home.
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After 50m, he was swimming in fourth. After 100m, he hadn’t improved his position. After 150m, he’d dropped to sixth. There were only two men behind him. And yet if you had a betting slip with his name on it you weren’t tearing it up.
His last 50m was reminiscent of his last 50m on Sunday in the 100m freestyle. Sixth became fifth, fifth became fourth, fourth became third, third became second.
This when you had to step back from it and observe the wonder of a Scottish kid powering through water and scaring the life out of a man, Larkin, who up to that point in these Games had made three finals and had won three golds.
Scott never swam faster in this event in his life but was edged out by 0.19 seconds. In beating him by a whisker, Larkin set a new Commonwealth Games record.
He was spent, but he came again in the relay in the bid for a seventh medal and a place alongside Le Clos, Thorpe and Klim in the annals. It didn’t quite work out, but it was close. Again, there was a storming finish, but it wasn’t to be.
He took a moment on his own to recover and then tried to sum it all up. “I’m pretty gutted to finish fourth,” he said.
“The other boys (Craig McNally, Ross Murdoch and Mark Szaranek) are pretty gutted as well. But we’ve got to hold our heads high.
“I’m not sure where we came in Glasgow in this race, but I know it was a lot further down the pecking order.”
It was. On Tuesday, Scotland were fourth in a time of 3:35.15. Four years ago, they were seventh in 3:37.48. In 2010, they were fifth in Delhi in 3:40.68.
“It’s a big step forward,” he said. “It’s a solid end to the week. It’s been really nice seeing my family here.
“They’ve given me phenomenal support and have done the entire time I’ve been swimming. They’ve been all about me enjoying it rather than putting too much pressure on me.”
What next? The Europeans in Glasgow in August this year, the worlds in South Korea in July next year, the Olympics in July the year after.
Right now? “I just need to lie down now,” he said. You can bet that he won’t be lying down for long before refocusing and going again.