Elaine Johnston, once an international swimmer for Scotland competing in the 1986 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games, is the swimming coach at Strathallan and is former pupil and Rio Olympics silver medallist, Duncan Scott’s biggest supporter.
As up-and-coming Scottish swimmer Duncan Scott celebrates a silver medal for Team GB in 4x200m freestyle and fifth place in the 100m freestyle final, his former school coach, Elaine Johnston, has been keeping a proud and watchful eye on his progress.
“I could not be more proud of Duncan’s achievements in Rio,” Elaine said. “He has worked exceptionally hard to get to the Olympics, from his early morning training sessions here at Strathallan to the intensive dedication he will have shown at his club and out in Rio, and he deserves to be competing and winning at the highest level.”
A swimmer herself who competed at the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Elaine knows better than anyone what it takes to get to the top of the sport.
Now the swimming coach at one of Scotland’s leading independent schools, Strathallan, Elaine played a pivotal role, along with his Stirling University club coach, Steven Tigg, in helping 19-year-old Duncan prepare for the greatest sporting stage of all.
“Duncan was just 12 when he first arrived at Strathallan and, from the minute he stepped into the pool, I knew he’d go far. He had a natural feel for the water and was terrific on all four strokes. Also he was fully committed and was always looking for how he could develop and be better.”
Joining the Perthshire independent school for his secondary school years proved to be a turning point for Duncan, as Strathallan enabled the teenager to pursue his passion for swimming with the support of Elaine and the wider teaching staff.
“At Strathallan, we pride ourselves on offering all pupils the opportunity to excel in whatever they love to do and with Duncan, it was always swimming, although he was excellent at lots of sports. Teachers were aware that Duncan was very dedicated to his swimming and sometimes had to miss classes to compete in events, so they would offer extra help to him so he could stay on top of his class work.
“He was one of a group of pupils that trained in the pool, so he participated in sessions that catered for all, but, in order to keep progressing, we added in extra sessions and adapted the programme to give him the chance to really progress and develop his technique.”
Elaine knew Duncan was destined for great things when he competed in the European Youth Olympics in 2013 and, aged just 16, won the gold in the 200m freestyle.
“That was a real turning point for Duncan and for everyone involved in his development. Duncan became one to watch and this led on to him winning a silver medal in the 4x200m freestyle in 2014 at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. This was an incredibly special moment, especially with it being at home and I was delighted to be there to see it. That win reminded me of my experiences at the commonwealth games in 1986 and I knew Duncan would harness that experience to go for Rio.”
Now, with Duncan experiencing his first Olympics and winning medals, Elaine always knew Duncan would be well prepared and focused for Rio.
“Duncan will have been working really hard training. When he’s not competing, he’ll likely be getting up early to eat breakfast and fuel up before getting into the pool to train. When he was at school he would swim around 50,000 metres per week on top of strength and condition training as well as the sessions involved in Higher PE. His training will be even more intense than that, but I know he will be fully committed and thriving. Duncan’s attitude was outstanding and I know he’ll be feeling focused and race ready.”
Joining Strathallan in 2003, Dundee-born Elaine has worked closely, particularly with the school’s Head of Sport, Audrey Sime, to develop an exceptional swimming training programme.
“The facilities at Strathallan are outstanding and enable our swimming pupils to have the best opportunity to excel in the sport. Duncan’s story has also inspired many of our current swimmers. There is no greater inspiration than seeing people who were once pupils just like them reach the Olympics. We are all so proud of Duncan!”