22-year-old Scottish swimmer Mark Szaranek is used to training among inspiring, elite teammates, having completed a stellar career at the University of Florida. Surrounded by storied coach Gregg Troy, multiple world champion Caeleb Dressel and other key supporters, Szaranek has seen his swimming game step up to the big leagues. Now, with American Ryan Lochte returning to his original Florida home training base after several years away, Szaranek is reaping the benefits of racing alongside a swimming icon every day at practice.
“Ryan’s a good guy – I think he’s been pretty misrepresented in the US media to be honest because he’s great,” Szaranek told The Herald Scotland recently. “Having someone like him alongside you every day is amazing. He’s literally the best IM swimmer ever so to train with him is pretty incredible. And I can compete with him in practice so that gives me so much belief that I can compete with anyone in the world.”
Szaranek continued, “So when I get to the major meets, it’s not like I’m up against something I’ve never seen before, which is really helpful.”
After winning an NCAA championship title in the men’s 200 IM in 2017, Szaranek returned with a 2018 NCAA national title as part of the Gators’ 200 free relay, in addition to multiple top 5 finishes. Amid his yards career, the Kirkcaldy, Scotland native kept grinding out impressive performances in the meters arena as well, claiming two runner-up finishes at the 2017 British National Championships that led to a 200m IM and 400m IM berth at that year’s World Championships in Budapest.
Continuing to grow his impact on the international swimming stage, Szaranek earned a silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the men’s 400m IM, falling just .60 of gold. He also claimed bronze as a member of Scotland’s 4x200m freestyle relay. However, after training with Lochte day in, day out, Szaranek is no friend to 2nd place.
On his performance on the Gold Coast, Szaranek told The Herald Scotland, “The plan was always to go for gold but silver is a decent consolation prize.
“Next time I’ll be looking for the win though. There is a touch of disappointment but I’m really happy to have come away with something. To have swum a 2 second personal best is really good – but you’re always looking for more.
“This has built my confidence and let me know that I can compete at that level. I always believed that I could do that but to go out to Gold Coast and actually execute it is another thing and so I’m really happy that I was able to do that. So hopefully I can take that knowledge and experience forward and use it to my benefit.”
Szaranek will have his chance to shine once again at the 2018 European Championships and he’ll get to do so on his home turf. Taking place in Glasgow August 12th-20th, the European Championships will be an opportunity for Szaranek to improve on his 400m IM performance in Australia and give GBR a medal in the event, something it hasn’t captured since the 2014 edition of the international event.
“To have a home Europeans coming up is really exciting,” said Szaranek.
“And I’m feeling confident. I believe I can go in there and swim best times again – I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t be able to do that. And if I am able to do that, I’m confident that I’ll put myself right in the mix for medals.”