THE season of indolence and over-eating is about to arrive for most of us, but Hannah Miley and Scotland’s other elite swimmers will have little time to indulge in any festivities.
Currently in training for next week’s European Short-Course Championships in Herning, Denmark, Miley will go straight from that event into preparation for the Duel In The Pool in Glasgow on 20-21 December, in which a European team will take on the USA.
And there will be little chance of a rest after that, as preparations for the Commonwealth Games begin in earnest at the start of 2014. Any thoughts of a holiday will be put on hold until late next year.
“The winter season is the time to get a fair chunk of training done, and to race in some short-course competitions before going on to long-course events later in the new year,” Miley explained. “We pretty much tend to have a short summer break for a couple of weeks then get back to work.”
Miley is European champion at her best event, the 400-metre individual medley, and has been in good form recently, coming second in the Beijing World Cup event earlier this month behind Mireia Belmonte Garcia of Spain. She expects tough competition not only from the Spaniard, but also from Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu, the 2012 silver medallist over 400, and champion in both the 100 and 200m IM.
“The 400 is going to be a really tough race; here’s hoping I can defend my title. This time round the standard of competition is a lot higher than it was last year. So if I can get a medal again I’ll definitely be chuffed.”
The championships in Herning, a town of some 50,000 people in central Denmark, take place from Thursday 12 to Sunday 15. As usual, Miley will compete in the 200 as well as the 400, but while Hosszu is essentially a sprinter, the Scot’s forte is stamina.
“The 200 is possibly too short for me, because it demands a lot of power and speed, and I’ve got a lot of endurance. So for me, the 400 is a better event simply because it’s longer.”
Miley will take part in both those events at the Duel In The Pool and she will also participate in the 200 breaststroke. The first three swimmers in each race get five points, three points and one point respectively, with all points contributing to the team’s total.
“There’s a lot of pressure on us to beat the Americans this time round, but it will be really exciting to be part of Team Europe, and to have as my team-mates people who I’m usually competing against. The way they’ve done it is very exciting. There are no heats, no qualifying rounds – you’ve got to stand up and do your event once and that’s it.
“And the fact that it’s in Glasgow, at the Commonwealth Games venue, will make it all the more exciting. We’re all hoping the Duel In The Pool will showcase the venue, and encourage people to get tickets for the Commonwealth Games. Obviously the Americans won’t be competing there, but we will be up against Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa. Some of the strongest swimming nations in the world are in the Commonwealth, so the standard of competition at Tollcross next summer will be extremely high.
“I think it’s wonderful that Scotland has been picked to host the Duel at this particular time. Yes, it’s a serious event, but it’s really good fun as well.
“That’s the thing about swimming – it’s a really fun sport to compete in, and crowd support really plays a huge role, so hopefully the Scottish public will get right behind us.
“When there’s a big crowd and a great atmosphere, you really want to put in a big performance and show off the skills you’ve been practising. The crowd really boosts you when you race, so that’s what we’re hoping for at the Duel and then at the Commonwealth Games.”
Miley will represent Team Europe next month, has swum for Team GB at the Olympics, and will be in Scotland’s team next year at her third Commonwealth Games. Born in Swindon but having grown up in Inverurie, she is comfortable with that diversity.
“I’m proud to represent Great Britain at the Olympic Games and Scotland at the Commonwealth Games,” she explained. “I like the fact that the teams are different for the two events – it makes them all the more special when they come round.
“I’ve trained and lived in Scotland for most of my 24 years, so wearing the Saltire on my hat when I race at the Commonwealth Games is really, really special. It’s the same with the Olympic Games: wearing that Great Britain hat once every four years is special as well.”
l Olympic medallist Hannah Miley is one of thousands of swimmers who took part in Scottish Gas SwimBritain this summer. Watch out for information coming soon on 2014 events happening near you.