MARK Szaranek is used to spending Christmas in chilly Glenrothes so it was a shock to the system for the 22-year-old to be enjoying his Christmas dinner in the sunnier climes of Florida.

With the Fifer in the midst of his chemistry degree at Florida University, he had the option to return home for the festive period but along with his younger brother Jack, who is also a Florida University student, he opted to stay put, with their parents visiting them to ensure it was still a family affair.

“I stayed in Florida over Christmas for swimming reasons – I reckoned it was better for me because it was less travel and it allowed me to train right through but it was strange not being at home, that’s the first time I’ve been away from home,” he said. “It’s warm in Florida too so it didn’t feel like Christmas at all. I had Christmas day off but that was it really – I’ve just been training the rest of the time.”

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The benefit for Szaranek of being a Florida University swimmer is that the standard of the university meets he swims in are incredibly high and give the Scot ample opportunity to gauge exactly where he is with only three months until the Commonwealth Games

“I’m feeling in great shape – I’m feeling in the best shape possible, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m in racing shape at the moment,” he said. “I’m as fit as I can be and so hopefully by March and April-time, I’ll be ready to race. We had our college invite meet at the end of last year and I wasn’t especially fast because I hadn’t rested but I got what I wanted out of the meet and I’ll save my really fast racing for when it matters.”

Szaranek, who is one of the Sunday Herald’s ‘Six to Follow’, also got the opportunity to race his brother and with the pair intensely competitive, Szaranek relished the opportunity.

“It was good to race with Jack,” he said. “We raced together and against each other in a couple of relays – we were on different strokes when were up against each other but it’s always fun to race each other. And my team won.”

With the Commonwealth Games looming, it is all starting to feel very real but with a number of major college competitions between now and then, Szaranek will have a welcome distraction from the build-up to Gold Coast.

“I’m definitely thinking about the Commonwealth Games – I’ve just recently finalised all of the paperwork and got my flight confirmation through so that made it seem a little closer,” he said. “I’ve got a couple of big meets between now and Gold Coast so it still seems reasonably far away but I know it’ll come around pretty quickly. So I’m just really looking forward to it.”