HANNAH Miley has 16 major international medals to her name but admits she may find further global long-course success harder to come by unless one factor is immediately addressed.
Miley opened her senior international medal count at the 2008 World Short Course Championships in Manchester, claiming silver and bronze before winning her first major title the following year. That came in the form of European short course 400m medley gold, with a second title coming at the long course equivalent in 2010 and a third at the Delhi Commonwealth Games.
However, of the 16 medals, including two more golds at last year’s European and World Short Course Championships, only one has come in a full Olympic-length 50-metre pool.
When Miley claimed 400m medley silver at the 2011 Shanghai World Championships hopes were high that she could follow suit at the London 2012 Olympics but she finished seventh in the 200m medley and fifth in the 400m, four years after placing 11th and sixth in the same events on her Olympic debut at Beijing in 2008.
Unlike at the 2011 worlds, where Miley was faster than she had been at the UK trials, in London, Beijing and at the 2009 global gathering in Rome it was the other way around.
The Garioch-based swimmer will bid for a place at this year’s World Championship in Barcelona at the British Gas Championships in Sheffield this week and she’s determined to get the combination right this time.
“You hope your fastest time will come at the World Championships,” said Miley. “I have had a couple of years where I have posted my fastest time at the trials and not been able to back it up. I have to play to my strengths and get the qualifying time and then make that next step up and go faster. If the Americans can do it we should be able to, too. In America they do have the depth of competition in all events, so in the 400m medley there will be four or five lanes of girls swimming the same time and it is a real bunfight. They know how to finish fast for that situation whereas we in Britain are looking to pull back in the heats so we can get our fastest time in the final. When you then get to the top competitions, they are used to racing fast in the heats and the finals. I’ve got to qualify first but you want to swim fastest at the biggest event.”
At London 2012, Miley wasn’t alone in the GB team in failing to swim quicker than she had done at last year’s British Gas Championships or post a personal best.
The aftermath has seen several changes to British Swimming, from a new performance director in Chris Spice and head coach in Bill Furniss to a host of retirements from Rebecca Adlington to David Davies.
Miley plans to stick around for the Rio 2016 Olympics and has the fastest 400m medley time in the world this year.
“I want to stay on for Rio. I can still progress and I have passion and desire to do whatever it takes to push myself to the limits and, fingers crossed, I can transfer that to long course,” Miley added.
There are just 30 guaranteed places up for grabs this week in a GB team that will travel to Barcelona next month. Twelve months ago expectations were high going into the London Olympics only for Team GB to fall short of with three medals – a silver and two bronzes courtesy of Michael Jamieson and Rebecca Adlington.
Four-times Olympic medallist Adlington retired in February but Glaswegian Jamieson – second in the 200m breaststroke in London – has the same relentless drive and determination. He said: “London 2012 was great and it was the culmination of a lot of hard work but I want to keep the ball rolling because I only have four years left in this sport and I want to make the most of every season.
“I know how hard the trials will be just to get to the worlds because we are so close right now, especially in the 100m breaststroke. But the big performances and the close battles tend to bring the best out of me and, hopefully, it will be the same at the British Championships because I want to reach Barcelona. It will be tough but I am ready for that and I will give my all because I want to build on the Olympics and the next stepping stone for that is the worlds.”
There are plenty of other big names competing in Sheffield this week. As well as Miley and Jamieson, Fran Halsall and Liam Tancock have also all made world podiums before.
Keri-anne Payne was fourth in the open water event in 2012, while Daniel Fogg claimed a maiden World Cup win in the men’s equivalent in Mexico in April.
There are some highly-promising youngsters including Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, who had already tasted world and Olympic competition by the age of 16, with the likes of James Guy and Matthew Johnson also looking to take the next step on to the team.
Sprint freestyler Halsall was devastated after failing to claim a medal in London – although it later emerged she had been suffering from a shoulder injury which severely restricted her training. A period of soul-searching ensued and, with coach Ben Titley leaving for Canada, Halsall was floundering.
However, former world champion James Gibson took over as sprint coach and Halsall rediscovered her love of the sport and her confidence was renewed. Now the Loughborough swimmer will be looking for place on the GB team four years after claiming 100m freestyle silver at the Rome World Championships.
• Hannah Miley and Michael Jamieson are taking part in British Gas SwimBritain, a programme aiming to encourage half a million people to improve their fitness by swimming more regularly by 2015. Team up and take part! Find out more at www.swimbritain.co.uk/challenge