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Interview: British swimmer and Commonwealth champion Ross Murdoch

Sports Mole speaks to Commonwealth champion Ross Murdoch about the new European Championships and his hopes for Rio 2016.

In the summer of 2014, Scottish swimmer Ross Murdoch upset the odds by beating teammate and Olympic silver medallist Michael Jamieson to a Commonwealth gold medal in the 200m breaststroke final in Glasgow.

Since then, the self-proclaimed "emotional swimmer" has won two European Championship silver medals, a World Championship bronze and was part of a world-record British relay team that took gold at Kazan 2015.

Murdoch now has his sights set firmly on grabbing a place in the GB team for this summer's Olympic Games in Rio, but he has also welcomed the inaugural European Championships, which will be co-hosted by Glasgow in 2018 and will involve swimming, athletics, cycling, gymnastics, rowing, triathlon and golf.

Sports Mole recently caught up with Murdoch to discuss the new multi-sport event, as well as his hopes for the year and why he believes that making the Olympic team will be harder than making the final in Rio.

Ross Murdoch pictured at the World Championships in August 2015© Getty Images

What are your thoughts on the introduction of the new European Sports Championships? Do you think that it can attract as much interest as other multi-sport events?

"I think it can attract a lot of attention. I think it's good for sports like my own. Swimming doesn't get that much coverage at the minute so having other bigger sports that are already established, such as athletics, will be going on at the same time so hopefully that will draw interest towards the other sports involved that aren't quite as big. I think it will do wonders for my sport and a lot of the other sports that are going to be involved."

It's fair to say that Glasgow is a big football city, but considering that it's hosted the Commonwealth Games and swimming and gymnastics competitions over the last few years, do you think it's becoming a home for other sporting events?

"Yeah, I really hope that it can become known as a home for all sports. I think we showed from the Commonwealth Games and the IPC World Championships and the World Gymnastics Championships that we can host really big sporting events. It is a home for football and it always will be but I'd like it to be seen as a sport hub and one of those cities in the world that's highly renowned for its ability to host sporting events."

Glasgow treated you very well in 2014 at the Commonwealth Games. Everyone expected Michael Jamieson to win gold in the 200m breaststroke final, but you stopped that from happening. You must consider that win as a pivotal moment in your career.

"Yeah, that was probably the most defining moment. It still defines me today. Even though I went to the World Championships last summer and got a bronze medal and I also assisted the team in getting a gold medal in the relay, which was a world record, I've moved on to bigger things. But that moment still defines me in my eyes and also in the public's eyes. That's one that I won't forget and one that I hope to build on in the future."

Ross Murdoch of Scotland wins the men's 200m breaststroke final on July 24, 2014© Getty Images

You mentioned moving on to bigger things in terms of medalling at the Europeans and Worlds. Now that we're in the Olympic year, how would you assess your current form?

"I think I'm in the shape of my life. I've rarely had time off. I got a couple of weeks off after the World Championships in the summer, so I think I'm in great shape. It's all down to the hard work and the graft that I've been putting in this year. I'm looking forward to a few more races - I'm racing in Ireland the following weekend and then in the Edinburgh International, the Scottish National Age Group Championships and then it's the Olympic trials. I've got three more races to prepare for the Olympic trials and I'm looking forward to moving it on and thinking about the process of how I'm going to get faster [and working on] my starts, turns and executing my race plan."

You've said before that you're an "emotional swimmer". You must use it as an advantage, but can it also be a drawback sometimes?

"It can be a bit of a drawback sometimes but for me, I think it's an advantage. I've spoken to plenty of psychologists about this and it can be used as an advantage. Some people don't have the ability to swim emotionally but I think the biggest challenge for me is to stay emotionless through a heat and a semi-final swim at an Olympic Games, where it is quite a pressured environment, but that's something that I work on day to day and I've shown at the Commonwealth Games and at the World Championships that I'm able to make it back into a final and deliver the goods when it really matters."

Adam Peaty and Michael Jamieson, like yourself, will be trying to get in the Olympic team. How much of a challenge will it be just to qualify?

"I think the challenge in the breaststroke events - the three people, including myself, that you mention there - but there's maybe about five or six guys that are going to make the time. The times aren't going to be the issue, it's literally just going to be getting your hand on the wall first or second - that's going to be the hardest part for the majority of the guys swimming breaststroke in Britain at the minute. I'm fully aware that there's more than just myself whose capable of making this team. I've said it once, and I'll say it again, it's going to be harder to make this team than it is the Olympic final in both the events."

Ross Murdoch pictured at the European Championships in 2014© Getty Images

Even though your place isn't secured yet, it's natural to think of what it would be like to compete, particularly as it would be your first Olympics. How do you make sure that you do not get ahead of yourself?

"I just take each day as it comes. Each day is different and I just have to work on the little things. I try and give myself little goals. The endgame is getting to the Olympic Games and that final so I need to give myself little things to focus on each day, so every day I turn up and do my best in the pool. It's also the little things I do away from the pool, like working on my diet and making sure that I'm as well recovered as I can be and I'm as flexible as I need to be in order to do my sport well. So it's all the little things around swimming that I tend to focus on because if I think about all those things, the big things will just come."

We mentioned him earlier - Adam Peaty seems to be the poster boy for British Swimming at the moment. Considering you both compete in breaststroke, what's the relationship like between you? Is there a lot of rivalry?

"You always want to be the one that's on the top, you always want to be the best so of course there's a lot of rivalry between myself and Adam, but I've known Adam for years now. We've come through the ranks at British Swimming together. I first met him in 2012 when we went to the European Junior Championships together, so I've known him for a few years now and we've come on every year. We're good friends away from the blocks. When you stand on a block, everyone's got a target on their back."

London 2012 didn't go as well as British Swimming had hoped in terms of medals. There will be a lot of new faces in Rio, and is there more pressure considering how well the team have done in other meets over the last few years?

"Obviously we didn't get the medals target in London, but we had the most ever finalists and the most ever fourth-placed finishes in London so it wasn't actually as bad as people thought. It was just because the public look at medals rather than results. Looking back at London 2012, we were on the brink of something great and somebody needed to come in to help us take that next step.

"Chris Spice (national performance director) and Bill Furniss (head coach) have come into British Swimming since London. We didn't have a great World Championships following the Olympics, but again we were on the brink of something great. The following year at the Commonwealth Games and European Championships, we really started to shine. Looking back at the summer just gone, we are a force to be reckoned with now so you can almost guarantee that anyone who makes that Olympic team is going to be in great shape for performing exceptionally in the summer."

For you personally, given that the Olympics are coming soon, what are you hoping to take away from this year?

"I had a bit of a tough year in 2015 because of illness and I didn't manage to make the team in the 200m breaststroke, which is my favoured event. So I just want to be able to do myself justice this year. I've been working hard, been training well. I just want to do my coach Ben Higson justice and enjoy everything that I'm doing and enjoy the process. I want to see myself on that Olympic team and just take it from there."

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