Bethany Carson can sense that she is maturing into her peak years with the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow top of her agenda.
The 22-year-old Lisburn girl enjoyed the experience of the Delhi 2010 Games but next summer she wants to make a bigger mark in the Northern Ireland cap.
The butterfly and medley swimmer is part of a six-strong team heading to the European short course championships next week and then from the turn of the year her focus – like all of the top local senior swimmers – will be on qualifying for Glasgow.
Carson, a winner at the Irish short course championships in Lisburn last weekend, is part of a thriving High Performance set-up in the National Aquatic Centre in Dublin where the bubbly Irish record holder is feeding off the success of those around her.
Carson said: "The programme is really coming in to its own under our coach Paul Donovan.
"We have a spread of ages from 12 up to 28 – the 28-year-old Melanie Houghton won a silver and bronze medal with the Australian relay at the World championships.
"It's great to have her to train with with her for the sprint events because she is a sprinter.
"Then there's Irish record holders Brenda Hyland an Brendan Gibbons and 12-year-old Antoinette Neamt who won medals at the Irish championships.
"Antoinette is amazing and great to train with, ridiculously fast and challenges everybody else.
"You wouldn't think she is only 12!
"Everyone is improving and one of the main reasons is our gym coach Noel Murphy.
"He is amazing – the right strength and conditioning is essential.
"It's all very intense, I have gone back to studying at DCU so that has added to the workload but also it has been good for me because it means at times I can take my mind off swimming."
In the pool at the Irish championships last weekend, Carson was pleased with the level she was at ahead of the Euros in Denmark and more so with her long term aim of success at the Commonwealths.
She added: "I wasn't rested for the Irish championships because of the Europeans coming up and all my times were around my PBs so that is a good sign at this stage of the season.
"At this time it's all a hard slog, about getting as many miles in as you can."
The qualifying period for the Games starts in January. The two designated meets for qualification are the Dave McCullagh in February and then the Irish long course championships in April – plus one other which each swimmer has to nominate.
"Once you get to this stage of the sport it's more of a mental game and I think I'm learning every year how to deal with that, how to compete with the best," added Carson.
"We're all working hard, we know about out technique so it's all about howe to race and how to cope with everything.. it's an exciting challenge.
"The last time at the Games was my first time going, so this time I want to go and make an impact.
"I had a real ball the last time... going to Delhi was an experience in itself and now I'm looking forward to Glasgow. I try not to think too much about it, but it's always in the back of your mind – I want to make finals and get as close as I can to the top guys."