IT is not about the money, but it is, Aimee Willmott declares in an instant contradiction. Inclusion in British Swimming’s world-class performance squad brings the valuable cushion of Lottery funding but it is also a badge of honour which comes with personal validation attached.

Removal hurts in the pocket but also bruises egos. All the more when the decision appears arbitrary, as it was for the University of Stirling competitor - and her long-time foe Hannah Miley - when they were cut last autumn despite finishing 1-2 at the Commonwealth Games in the 400 metres individual medley and seeming to remain firmly in the ranks of contenders.

A kick in the teeth, felt Willmott. Cold science, argue her now-former paymasters who routinely cite “Olympic medal potential” as the blanket rationale when such calls are ruthlessly made. But the 26-year-old is ploughing on regardless, and will head into this week’s British Swimming Championships at Glasgow’s Tollcross Centre with a vital opportunity to prove she is keeping her head firmly above water.

The six-day meeting, which begins on Tuesday, doubles as the trials for July’s world championships in the South Korean city of Gwanju. Rather than being paid to train and compete, the two-time European medallist has been required to write her own cheques for the first time in almost a decade. A shift, she insists, that she has shrugged off.

“My mind-set’s just the same, I think,” she says. “This is what I love doing. If funding was such a big issue, I’d have stopped by now. I’m enjoying the training still. The guys in Stirling have been really supportive, helping me carry on. Giving me the provisions and other stuff, seeing as I’m not on funding.

“I still have that access which means I can carry on doing what I love. And then I’m doing a little bit of work on the side to help pay for the swimming financially.”

That extra labour includes some social media production for her swimwear sponsor Funkita and a coaching business established in conjunction with her father Stuart, a former Olympian in the pool, which sees her regularly decamp from Stirling to share her wisdom around the country.

“It is something I’d always wanted to do,” she says. “It’s delivering club visits and going around to do talks in schools and that pays the bills a bit. It’s also nice to have something different to focus on sometimes. It’s helped keep things fresh.

“When you’re on funding, you do think ‘if I’m not spending it all every year, then there’s my fall-back’. I’m fortunate I’ve not been silly with the money. I’ve got enough to keep me swimming and afloat. But I’m trying not to worry about it too much.”

Such breathing room is priceless for the Teessider, who was seventh at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Similarly for Miley, who will line up beside her in the 400IM on the opening day of the trials and who has enough sponsors to finance her ambition to reach Tokyo 2020, even if the lingering effects of foot surgery last year has led the Scot to dampen expectations of taking her customary place on the world’s team.

Willmott has yet to earn a global medal. The incentives have never been greater.

“It’s maybe not necessarily about proving people wrong,” she says. “But it’s not letting people dictate to me. Me and Hannah are in the same boat, being taken off. We could have easily gone ‘okay, we’re not getting any money - we’re done’. But we’re still performing well. We both still enjoy it and that’s why we do it.”