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Miley has put Olympic disappointment firmly behind her

March 2, 2013
Hannah Miley responded to missing out on an Olympic medal by winning European and world gold

Hannah Miley responded to missing out on an Olympic medal by winning European and world gold

Whether it is her refusal to get caught up in the look-at-me theatricals of some high-profile Olympians, or her determination to keep pushing herself away from the public gaze, with her father, Patrick, in the north-east of Scotland, the 23-year-old is as impressive away from the pool as when making waves in it.

Last year was something of a mixed bag for Miley. She tasted disappointment at the London Olympics, but demonstrated her recuperative powers by surging to gold medal glory in the 400m individual medley at the European Championships, and followed that up with a repeat performance at the World Short Course Championships in Istanbul in December.

Yet the most striking aspect of these conflicting results was the honesty with which Miley responded to them. She was offered the chance to throw criticism at the Chinese teenage prodigy Ye Shiwen after the latter’s remarkable surge to a Games record in London, amid whispers about alleged drug abuse.

Miley instead offered support to her young rival and urged the sceptics to marvel rather than mock the 16-year-old’s feats. It was typical of Miley that she chose to accentuate the best aspects of the Games rather than be consumed by thoughts of what might have been.

During the last few weeks, she has been working feverishly, commuting regularly between Sheffield and her native Inverurie as she prepares for next week’s British Gas meeting in Leeds, the first international swimming event in the UK since the Olympics.

“I haven’t got a clue how I will perform as it is so early in the season, but a lot of young British swimmers will be involved and the more opportunities they get, the better,” Miley said. “I know there has been a lot of messy stuff going on behind the scenes [within the British swimming hierarchy] since London, but in some ways it’s good that I am based in Scotland, because I can keep my head down.

“As an athlete, you just want to get on with your training to the best of your ability and look towards the future – 2012 is a closed book. One or two people have asked if I have any regrets, but I don’t see the point of living in the past and having something sitting on your shoulder, eating away at you.

“My thoughts are focused on improving my times and reaching the Worlds by qualifying at the [GB] trials in Sheffield in June. In the longer term, I am obviously thinking about the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow because it will be my last big home event.

“If the atmosphere was brilliant in London, I expect it will be unbelievable for the Scots when we compete in our homeland. Then, of course, there is Rio in 2016 . . .”

By that stage, the Scot will be 26, an age regarded by the pool brigade as approaching the veteran stakes. Yet Miley remained as sanguine in discussing this issue as in everything else. “As long as I am healthy and making strides forward – and still enjoying my training – I’m committed to this sport and right now, I feel positive about how things are going,” she said.

“I know I will have some big decisions to make after Glasgow, such as whether it is realistic to keep working at home with my dad, but I don’t have to worry about that until the end of the Commonwealth Games. What I do know is that I definitely want to be in Rio.

“It is strange that once swimmers reach their mid-20s, they tend to be written off when there are plenty of cases of people staying at the top through to when they are 27, 28 or 29. [Zimbabwe’s] Kirsty Coventry has done terrifically well, and then you see what Michael Phelps achieved in London when he was 27. In fact, I only learned recently that Ryan Lochte is older than Phelps [at 28], so I don’t worry too much about age. If you suddenly stood still in your times, or started going slower, then that might be a different story.

“I am still getting faster and believe I can keep doing so in the future. You have to think outside the box and put 100% effort into what you are doing and you are always aware that nothing stands still in sport, any sport. But I love swimming, I have lots of ambitions I want to pursue, and, whatever some might imagine, I thought the London Olympics were fantastic.”

Miley has never ceased to be captivated by her pursuit. Next week’s Leeds assignment may just be a small step in her grand plan, but she is clearly savouring the prospect of a Glasgow gold rush and rendezvous in Rio in the next three years. And, as somebody who once described herself as being more graceful in the water than on dry land, why not?

Hannah Miley is a Scottish Gas ambassador and is supporting SwimBritain, a campaign to create a healthier nation and get more people swimming regularly by 2015.


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