London 2012 Olympics: Dedication of Hannah Miley matched by fellow GB swimmers
THOUSANDS of athletes enjoyed taking part in the Opening Ceremony last night, celebrating the opening of the Games by marching round the track behind their national flagbearers.
But for those whose competition begins today, among them many of Scotland’s most talented swimmers, there was no time for relaxation.
Hannah Miley, who competes today in the 400-metres individual medley, was one of those unable to take any time off. Much as she would have liked to be in the Olympic Park, the Inverurie swimmer had more pressing matters to attend to.
“I’ll be in my own little bubble preparing for the biggest day of my life,” she explained recently. “Then I’ll be tucked up in bed and resting in readiness for the biggest day of my life.”
Miley is probably Britain’s best hope of a medal on the first day of competition in the pool, but if it is to turn into the greatest day of her life as well as the biggest absolutely everything will have to go right. Nineteen-year-old Elizabeth Beisel of the United States is the favourite in most eyes, with Australia’s defending champion Stephanie Rice next in the betting.
Beisel recorded the fastest time in the world this year at the US trials last month, almost a second better than Miley’s best. But Miley, who won Commonwealth gold in this event in Delhi two years ago, is capable of rising to the occasion and beating both Beisel and Rice – and if she does it will be thanks in no small part to her father and coach Patrick.
Miley senior leaves nothing to chance, and has analysed Beisel’s swims in almost obsessive detail. He has argued that, by swimming so well at the trials, the teenager may have shown her hand too soon.
“I can tell you everything about [Beisel],” he said. “How many strokes she takes. What pace she does to 15m, 25m, 45m.
“How quickly she goes in and out of her turns. How she runs the race. Every split since 2008.
“Hannah does not know, but I know. It might not directly benefit her, but it affects the way I coach Hannah.
“Ultimately, it is a race. The Olympics is a race. Beisel has exposed exactly what she has got five weeks out from the Games. That has to be beneficial. My tactics with Hannah will be based on what I glean from that.”
While Miley has been a contender on the world stage for some time now, her fellow-Scot Craig Benson is a newcomer at this level. Indeed, when asked exactly a year ago about his prospects, the breaststroke specialist said: “I have an outside chance of making the Olympics.”
The 18-year-old from Livingston insists there was no false modesty in that assertion. When he made it, he explained recently, it was a realistic assessment. “Yeah, it was. Last year’s trials for the world championships, which were in March, I was 63 seconds for the 100m breaststroke.
“Then I went on to the European junior championships and took it down to 62 seconds. Then a couple of months later I went to the world junior championships and took it down to 61.
“I realised at that point: ‘I’m only half a second away from the Olympic qualifying time. I think I can do that by the time [the Great Britain trials come].
“Realistically I set the goal, but I knew it was going to be really challenging, really tough, because there are so many top guys in Britain. I thought I would aim for it. You’re only going to achieve it if you aim for it. It’s unlikely you’ll get there without aiming for it.
“I just fully focused on making that team, fortunately I got on, and it’s been absolutely fantastic.” It was not fortunate at all. Benson made it on sheer ability, beating compatriot Michael Jamieson and qualifying for Team GB in second place behind Daniel Sliwinski.
“I swam the heat and the semi-final in the same time as at the world junior championships, and at that time was thinking ‘I don’t know where I’ll be able to drop the time’,” Benson recalled of that race.
“I just woke up the next day and thought: ‘Do you know what, I’m going to race them. I’ll take on anyone, I don’t care who lines up, I’m just going to race them.’
“I stood up behind the blocks, 100 per cent confident really. I did a personal best on the first length, because I went out as fast as I could go. Then I held on down the second length, tried to hold on so bad. Michael was coming back at me because he’s more of a 200 swimmer, but I just managed to hold him off and qualified for three hundredths of a second.
“I think I swam it really well. Daniel always goes out really fast, and Michael is known for coming back really fast, so I thought I’d have to go out in between the two on the first 50. I just thought I’d try and hold on on the second 50, try and stay ahead of Michael and maybe catch Daniel. I didn’t quite manage to catch Daniel, but I did hold off Michael, finished second and just sneaked on to the team.”
Sliwinski has since had to withdraw from the team because of injury, allowing Jamieson to join Benson in today’s two-lengths event. As Benson said, the 200 is the Glaswegian’s better distance – but on the first day of competition, it remains to be seen just how inspired by home support Britain’s competitors can be.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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