FOR most athletes, the aftermath of the Olympic Games requires quite a bit of adjustment. 

Lucy Hope had more to adapt to than most in the months following her return from Tokyo, where she made her Olympic debut. 

Having spent her entire adult life living and training in Edinburgh at Edinburgh University, Scotland’s top freestyler came to the conclusion that a fresh start was required. 

It was, she admits, a monumental decision, particularly as her development at Edinburgh had seen her reach a level whereby she collected four European gold medals this year alone, but the fact that only an hour along the motorway is one of the world’s best training groups made the decision somewhat easier. 

Having spent a number of weeks on her return from the Olympics pondering her future, as well as fighting a touch of the “Olympic blues”, which commonly sets in as a result of the Games ending, Hope joined the training group at Stirling University, led by Steven Tigg and which includes Olympic medallists, Duncan Scott and Kathleen Dawson, as well as the likes of Ross Murdoch and Cassie Wild. 

With the Paris Olympics now less than three years away, Hope is confident the fresh start is exactly what she needs to move to the next level. 

“I graduated from Edinburgh in the summer and I just thought it was time for a change,” the 24-year-old, who is originally from the Borders, says.  

“I decided to go to Stirling and now I’m there, I’m certain I made the right choice.   

“It’s been a pretty seamless transition – it helps a lot that in Scotland we’re a pretty close group and all know each other well. I’m really enjoying it and it’s been really good to learn from new people. And it’s such a high performance group. 

“So this will hopefully move things forward going towards Paris 2024.” 

This week, Hope will get her first chance to test out her form in the international arena as part of the 13-strong GB team which is in action at the World Shortcourse Championships in Abu Dhabi. 

Also in the squad are Hope’s compatriots, Duncan Scott and Katie Shanahan, as well as Olympic champions, Tom Dean and Freya Anderson. 

While Hope has already had a taste of competitive action since Tokyo as a member of the French team, Energy Standard, as well as bagging the 100m freestyle title at last weekend’s Scottish Shortcourse Championships, she is keen to test herself in what will be her debut in a major shortcourse championship. 

“I’ve never been to an international shortcourse meet other than ISL and I know it’s a lot more fast-paced than some other events and so it’ll be a good experience,” she says. 

“I’ll be happy if I can get to the finals but really, I just want to learn as much as I can.  

“I prefer long-course to be honest but I know I need to get better at shortcourse so this is a good chance.  

“It’s a small GB team but that can be a really good thing because when it’s a small squad, I feel like you learn more from each other compared to when it’s a massive team.” 

On her return from Abu Dhabi, Hope will allow herself a short break over Christmas before heading off to Flagstaff for an altitude training camp. 

2022 is likely to be a huge year for Hope, with the World Championships in May coming just weeks before the Commonwealth Games, where Hope, all going to plan, will make her third appearance for Team Scotland. 

“Next year is very busy – I’m hoping to do well at trials and qualify for Worlds and all going well, I should be able to make the team for the Commies,” she says. 

“The Commonwealth Games are always special because it’s home nations and all of the Scottish athletes are so close-knit. 

“The team this time will be completely different to the one in Gold Coast because so many people have retired so I’ll be one of the older ones this time.” 

Hope standing as one of the more experienced members of the Scottish team is, at least in part, as a result of the recent retirement of Hannah Miley who, for over a decade, was the stand-out Scottish female in the pool. 

Hope is, she admits, more than a touch disappointed she will not be making any more appearances alongside Miley but she is in no doubt as to the legacy the 32-year-old has left in her wake, paying tribute to her former teammate. 

“I know Hannah had a lot of trouble with injuries over the last couple of years but those injuries never dampened her spirit – she was always so positive,” Hope says.  

“Hannah’s such a nice person and she always had so much time for the next generation.  

“She’s a massive female role model and she will be for years to come, for a long time people will talk about Hannah. 

“I am very sad that she won’t be in Birmingham next year but I’m sure she’ll be at home supporting us all.”