Duncan Scott becomes Scotland's most decorated athlete

Scotland’s low-key sporting hero! How swimmer Duncan Scott, 25, went from a scholarship student with star power to the nation’s most decorated Commonwealth Games athlete

  • Duncan Scott, 25, is Scotland’s most decorated Commonwealth athlete 
  • Alloa-born swimmer was described ‘top talent’ by sporting icon Michael Phelps
  • Received death threats after 2019 run in with Chinese doping cheat Sun Yang 
  • Scott’s epic performance at Commonwealth Games follows recent stint of Covid 

Celebrated Scottish swimmer Duncan Scott has grown from schoolboy on a sporting scholarship to the nation’s most decorated Commonwealth Games athlete after winning four medals in Birmingham.

Hailing from Alloa, Clackmannanshire, Duncan started swimming at the age of six after being introduced to the sport by his businessman father, Nigel. His sister Alexandria, now a planning consultant, was also a competitive swimmer. 

But it was Duncan, 25, who became the athletic star of the family, winning medals at the Olympic Games, World Championships and the Commonwealth Games. 

In Birmingham, Duncan has come away with a gold medal in the 200m Freestyle and Bronze medals in the 400m Individual Medley, 4 x 200m Freestyle Relay, and 100m Freestyle, bringing his Commonwealth total to 11. 

‘I’m absolutely buzzing,’ he said, following his most recent win last night. 

Celebrated Scottish swimmer Duncan Scott, pictured, has grown from a schoolboy on a sporting scholarship to the nation’s most decorated Commonwealth Games athlete after winning four medals in Birmingham 

Duncan (right) is snapped here in the 90s with his sister Alexandria, who has also taken part in competitive swimming 

Snapped here with his father Nigel (pictured, right) at the Scottish Swimming Awards in 2018. His father introduced Duncan to swimming at the age of six

Pictured here winning gold in the 200m freestyle during Birmingham’s Commonwealth Games at the weekend, Duncan Scott is a record-breaking athlete

Despite the athlete’s staggering sporting success, he has described achieving a 2:1 degree in business and sports studies from the University of Stirling as one of his proudest moments

Born in May 1997, Duncan is the son of Nigel Scott and his wife, Joy Macnaughton. 

He started his swimming career as a child, attending the local pool in Troon every week with his father Nigel and sister. 

There was reportedly some sibling rivalry between the pair, who both swam for the South Ayrshire swim team. 

His sister Alexandria, now a planning consultant for an architectural and design firm in Scotland, went on to continue her own sporting endeavours, becoming Dundee University’s Sports Union President during her studies.

Nigel Scott told The National that he wanted the children to be able to swim, and so enrolled them on a two-week crash course. 

‘So during one summer they did a two-week course in Troon swimming pool and were able to swim from there,’ he said.

Swimmer Duncan Scott, pictured here aged 15 years, started swimming after his father Nigel decided that he and sister Alexandria should learn the sport

The athlete often shares behind-the-scenes snaps of his sporting adventures, including this photo from 2021, which he captioned ‘Some fun memories from 2021. Arigato gozaimasu’

At just 25, Duncan Scott has already amassed a stunning haul of Commonwealth and Olympic medals (pictured here posing for a portrait for the Tokyo 2020 Team GB photographs)

Duncan Scott, pictured here in at the Scottish Student Sports Awards 2020, where he picked up the gong for Scottish Male Athlete of the Year, is expected to enjoy further sporting glory

‘Then the teacher says “You’re quite a good little swimmer, would you like to train with the local swimming club?”.’

Unlike her husband, Joy has admitted that swimming is far from her favourite sport because she hates getting her head wet, although she is delighted whenever she has the opportunity to watch her son. 

At the age of 11, Duncan, who is dyslexic, enrolled as a boarder at the prestigious Strathallan secondary school, south of Perth, on a sports scholarship. It was clear from a young age that he was destined for greatness. 

‘Duncan was just 11 when he first arrived here and, from the minute he stepped into the pool, I knew he’d go far,’ his school swimming coach Elaine Johnston recalled following his achievements at Rio 2016.

While Duncan Scott (pictured left) is now best known for his Commonwealth Games success, in 2019, he made headlines after refusing to pose for pictures with Sun Yang (centre left) who is currently suspended from competing due to doping

Scott (pictured, left) was on the receiving end of a verbal lashing from Sun Yang (right) who told the young athlete he was a ‘loser’

‘It has been wonderful to see him perform so well on the greatest stage of all.’

She added in a separate interview: ‘Duncan was at boarding school from the age of 12 and part of that was to make sure that he had every opportunity to perform at the highest level but to combine it with his education as well, so a lot of sacrifices go on along the way.

‘Strathallan enabled him to combine everything – his water work, his strength conditioning and his academics all in one venue, without the travel, which helps the athlete.’

While still at school he burst onto the national stage when he won eight gold medals at the 2013 Scottish Age Group Championships in Edinburgh. In July 2014, at the 2014 European Junior Championships, Scott won three medals. It was followed a few weeks later by his first Commonwealth Games medal. 

Duncan continued his education at the University of Stirling, graduating with a 2:1 in Business and Sports Studies, which he described as one of his proudest achievements. 

Duncan Scott (pictured, right) poses with his bronze medal for the 400m individual medley at the Games in Birmingham this weekend

The athlete was able to scoop gold in the 200m freestyle this time around (pictured) after missing out on the top spot at the Tokyo Olympics

The university boasts one of the best high performance swimming centres in the UK and he spent some 30 hours a week in the pool to stay on top of his game.

The athlete, who has spoken about potentially studying for an MA has said of his degree: ‘The first and second years at university, I did find challenging, but by the third, I really started to enjoy it.’ 

As Scott’s career progressed, and he started to travel further afield for his sport.

He rose to mainstream prominence at the 2016 Rio Olympics, after clocking a quicker leg in the 4x200metres freestyle relay than Michael Phelps.

Although Team GB ultimately took silver, behind the USA, Olympic legend Phelps later singled out the Brit, describing him as ‘a top talent’. 

Reflecting on the event, Scott said: ‘He’s someone who I’ve looked up to massively so it was a really special moment getting to race against him in one of his last races, and even outsplit him.’ 

After missing out on the chance to fly to Rio due to costs, his family launched a fundraising campaign to raise cash so they could watch him compete at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast. 

Duncan Scott: His career Commonwealth Games medal haul

Following his stunning success at the Commonwealth Games, Duncan Scott has become Scotland’s most decorated athlete.

His impressive haul includes 11 medals from the Commonwealth Games.

Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games

4 × 200m Freestyle Relay – Silver

Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games

100m Freestyle – Gold  

200m Butterfly – Bronze

200m Freestyle – Bronze

4 × 100m Freestyle Relay – Bronze

4 × 200m Freestyle Relay – Bronze

 200m Individual Medley – Silver

Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games

200m Freestyle – Gold

400m Individual Medley – Bronze

4 x 200m Freestyle Relay – Bronze

100m Freestyle – Bronze 

He has also enjoyed considerable Olympic success, picking up hardware in 2016 and 2020.

Rio 2016 Olympic Games 

4 x 200m Freestyle Relay – Silver

4 x100m Medley Relay – Silver  

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games 

200m Freestyle – Silver

4x100m Medley Relay – Silver

200m Individual Medley – Silver

200m Freestyle Relay – Gold

They called on supporters to ‘help us get there so that we can shout him on in person. Be there with him for those special moments’. 

Speaking to STV last Summer about their son’s process, Scott’s parents revealed that when competing, he likes to ‘shut himself off’.

Nigel Scott said: ‘The moment he goes off on these trips, he may communicate with other people, but her certainly doesn’t communicate with us.’

He added that after a big event, the family will go out together.

‘Yeah, we tend to go and get something to eat, go and have a meal together and, you know, get the family together and chat, and get Duncan to chat,’ Nigel said. 

All-rounder Scott enjoyed even more of the spotlight after his performance at the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020, where he ended up taking home more hardware than any other British sportsperson at a single Games.

Among his haul was a silver in the 200m freestyle, a gold in the 4×200m freestyle relay, and silvers in the 200m individual medley and 4x100m medley relay.

Like most people in the public eye, Scott has not escaped scrutiny, which has at times verged on abuse.

In 2019 he received death threats after he refused to shake hands or pose for pictures with Chinese swimmer Sun Yang at the World Championships in South Korea, after the athletes scooped gold and bronze in the 200m freestyle respectively.

After refusing to take to the podium, Scott was taunted by Yang who wagged a finger in his face, and said: ‘You’re a loser. I’m a winner.’

The incident led to Scott receiving hundreds of abusive messages on social media, including photoshopped images showing him with a noose around his neck.

But the athlete stood his ground, despite earning a reprimand from swimming body Fina for ‘inadequate behaviour’, saying he would not respect Yang, who is currently serving a ban and hopes to return to competition in the 2024 Olympic Games. 

Duncan, who was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to swimming in the 2022 New Year Honours, also suffered a health setback this year.

He was forced to full out of the World Championships, a decision he said left him ‘devastated’, after a bout of Covid that left him struggling to train at full intensity. 

He revealed on Instagram, writing: ‘I’ve decided to pull out from the World champs that start this week! Absolutely devastated.

‘Since returning from covid I’ve been really struggling with high intensity! Now it’s time to put my health first and focus on recovery.’

The break seemed to help: when just weeks later he took to the water for the Commonwealth Games, he scooped bronze in the 400m individual medley, as well as gold in the men’s 200m freestyle.

In an unlikely twist of fate, Scott beat England’s Tom Dean to clinch the top spot in the freestyle – a reverse of Tokyo’s result, which saw his rival beating him to take first place.

While Scott and Dean compete together in Team GB, they enjoy a friendly rivalry when representing their respective countries.

According to Scott: ‘Scotland vs England. It’s always positive, we’ll rekindle the relationship as we get back to Team GB. 

‘It’s really good that’s what we want to do in Paris… that 4x200m we won in Tokyo, we want to do the same in Paris [in 2024].’

Duncan Scott (left) pictured after winning gold in the 200m freestyle at the Commonwealth Games – and beating friendly rival Tom Dean (right) into second place

Rivals: England’s Tom Dean (left) celebrates winning silver in the 200m freestyle, with his friendly rival Scotland’s Duncan Scott taking gold

Proud: the Scotsman holds a Saltire flag as he celebrates scoring the bronze in the 100m freestyle at the Commonwealth Games

Dean added: ‘The friendship comes before the rivalry. We are great pals in and out of the pool.

‘It’s a healthy competition and it’s only going to be good for Commonwealth sport and for Great Britain when we do come together and show them what we are capable of.’

And despite the swimmer’s success so far, he is expected to continue to perform at the highest level, picking up even more accolades along the way. 

Speaking about Scott’s impressive Commonwealth Games performance, chief executive of Sport Scotland Stewart Harris said: ‘Duncan has had a tough build up to these games, however, truly shows the level of athlete that he is to still come out and produce world-class performances.’

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