WITH two Olympic Games, two Commonwealth Games and a host of major medals already behind her at 24, Hannah Miley is one of the senior figures in Scotland’s swimming squad. She is as down to earth as ever as she looks forward to competing at Glasgow 2014, but there is no denying the fact that many of her team-mates look up to her.
She knows that, when it comes to a major Games, in many respects everyone has to do a lot of learning for themselves – and that includes learning from their own mistakes. Even so, when younger competitors ask her about how to handle the confusion and chaos of a multi-sport environment, she is happy to offer advice.
The most important piece of advice she dispenses is nothing technical; nothing to do with the psychology of preparing for competition.
Instead, reflecting her practical, leave-nothing-to-chance approach, it is an apparently obvious yet also crucial rule to observe.
“The first rule,” Miley explained, “is make sure you’ve always got your pass.” Sound advice, because without that accreditation pass, no matter if you are one of the world’s leading athletes, an official or a cleaner, you cannot get into any Games venue.
Even so, back in Melbourne at her first Commonwealth Games eight years ago, Miley left her pass behind. And worse was to follow when she decided she must have left it in her room – which she was locked out of, because her room key was attached to the pass.
“I nearly left the Village before realising my pass wasn’t attached to my bag, so I panicked and thought I must have left it in my room so I went there. But the room key is attached to your pass so I couldn’t get in as it was locked.
“So I had to break into my room through a window and couldn’t find my pass. Then someone phoned me to tell me they’d found my pass at the bottom of my swimming bag.
“So the moral of the story is first, never leave your window open – someone can break in. Second one is make sure your pass is tied to your bag, visibly. I’ll never ever forget that, and the first thing I now do is tie the accreditation to the top of my bag – and make sure it stays there.”
An unassuming character, Miley does not go out of her way to dispense wisdom to those less experienced competitors. But she believes it is important to remain approachable, even during training sessions.
“I follow my routine, but if someone is chatting to me then I’ll chat away normally. I don’t see myself as someone people should be afraid to come and talk to.
“Some of the athletes on the team I have grown up with, so I’m just good old Hannah Miley to them. There’s no awkwardness, as we have a close friendship and none of them are too in awe of me, if that makes sense.
“We’re all pretty well grounded and we all know each other. I still have young swimmers at my club who want to sit down and ask me questions, and it’s nice they want to learn more. They’ll experience this Commonwealth Games with open eyes and open arms. And there will be bumps along the way – as I discovered at that first Commonwealth Games.”
Miley will be one of Scotland’s first serious medal hopes in action when the swimming competition begins on Thursday, and thousands of spectators will turn up at Tollcross not merely hoping to see her get on the podium, but expecting her to do so. Such expectation makes it vital that dealing with the pressure becomes an integral part of her preparation – something that she and her coach and father Patrick build into their routine.
“I try to put the pressure to one side. As athletes we try to find something to control the distractions.
“There are a lot of variables which you can’t control. For some athletes that might be diet, it may be in the gym, training sessions or writing log books. Every athlete finds they’re fastidious about something, and that’s what they can control and that’s what keeps them happy.
“For me it’s about planning and that partnership with my dad, so if I have a million races or just one competition, then that has all been planned out. I’m doing everything for a reason, and not just for the sake of making Hannah tired.
“So I have my plan for coming into these Games, I’ve sat down with my dad and I know what I need to do. When I go to the Athletes’ Village I know the training session that I’m supposed to do once I get there. I know the training session I need to do the following day. Right up to the day of the race I know which training sessions I need to complete.
“That takes away the pressures of the various distractions, as I know I need to get that training session done regardless of what’s going on around me. If I want to explore the village, then I can do that after the swimming’s finished.
“Experience also comes into play, as it’s now eight years since my first Commonwealth Games so I know what to expect going into a village. I just need to know: where the transport area is to get to and from the pool; where my room is; and where the food is. Those are the three main areas.”
And, of course, the fourth: where her pass is.