It is a reflection of para-swimmer Toni Shaw’s talent and hard work that, on a bedroom shelf, learn-to-swim participation prizes sit next to World Para-swimming Championship medals of all colours.
The 16-year-old Albyn School pupil has had her best year yet, taking six medals home from London – golds in the 34pt 4x100m medley relay and 4x100m freestyle relay, silvers in the S9 400m freestyle and 100m butterfly, and bronzes in the 100m freestyle and 200m individual medley.
Great Britain’s swim in the 4x100m medley relay set a new world record.
And the next 12 months could top all of this, with Shaw, who has a host of other records to her name, putting a focus beyond her years on September’s Tokyo Paralympics.
Still, the groaning medal shelf at her family home is a reminder of how far she’s come – and how quickly.
She said: “I have a place in my room where they are all put. I’ve been collecting them since I was six, so there are quite a lot now.
“There’s quite a variety, with medals for taking part to the ones from the bigger competitions.
“I started lessons at eight but was doing learn to swim from when I was very young.
“I’ve got participation medals with world medals next to them.”
Shaw says she’s hopeful of success in Japan, but knows she has to strive for improvements.
The one-shot trials in April will determine whether she’ll be part of the British team – although Shaw, her coach and family have already had to book their travel to the other side of the globe.
This faith in herself and in others could pile on the pressure at a time when she’s also facing school exams. But this won’t dampen her excitement for what’s to come.
“It’s been a good year, but next year’s the big year, obviously, so all of my focus is on that,” she said.
“There are a few competitions in the run-up to the main one in April, which is the trial.
“It’s going to be a bit of a stressful time, as I’ve got my exams the week after that as well. It’ll be a pretty busy month, but I’m looking forward to it,” she said.
Shaw has a guaranteed trip to Japan for a three-week training camp in January, while her school has helped as much as it can by moving exams for their star student.
This has created the scenario where one of Shaw’s teachers must accompany her to Edinburgh Airport for a flight to a competition in Portugal after an early-morning test.
It’s a belt and braces requirement to make sure she doesn’t share any of the questions with her classmates who’ll sit the exam later in the day.
As for where Shaw can improve her times in the coming months, she points to the “skill elements”.
She added: “The turns and the dives – the little things which add up to quite a lot over a race.”
Her coach of two years, the Aberdeen University performance swim team’s Gregor McMillan, knows his athlete can make the necessary gains. “Talent-wise, she’s absolutely up there, and in terms of work ethic no one has come close to her level,” McMillan said.
“She’s the first person poolside and the hardest working athlete in the water – she really is outstanding.
“I really am fortunate.
“We have 10 sessions available and she does nine – the remaining session is for her maths tutor, which keeps her grounded.”
Part of his role is to keep expectation from harming Shaw’s performances, which is something he’s confident won’t happen.
McMillan – who thinks Shaw’s showing in London was “remarkable” – said: “What we talked about was, it’s not about winning but delivering her best performance.
“That’s what we focus on season to season. It’s whether she can produce her best performances.
“We don’t talk about medals, or times.”