HANNAH MILEY laid her cards on the table after cruising to victory at the British Gas Swimming Championships in Sheffield, admitting she’s happy to have a target painted on her back.
The Scot didn’t need to find top gear to clinch her 17th gold medal at the British Championships, easing to victory in the 400m individual medley final in a time of four minutes 35.67 seconds, touching home more than three seconds ahead of her closest rival Aimee Wilmott, although she’s only too aware that the hard work starts now.
Already she has laid down the gauntlet to her rivals ahead of the World Championships in Barcelona next month – in Eindhoven in April she set the fastest time of the year of 4:34.21.
But she has been in this position too many times to expect the gold medal in Spain is hers to lose.
At London 2012 she could only manage fifth when her personal best – set in 2009 – would have been good enough for bronze while at the last World Championships in 2011, she did seal a superb silver but was outclassed by the USA’s Elisabeth Beisel.
At last year’s Olympics it was Beisel, as well as Chinese duo Ye Shiwen and Li Xuanxu who took the podium places and while Miley is currently the leading lady over 400m, she knows that her rivals will not go quietly into the night.
“There is going to a lot of competition at the World Championships, there’s no doubt about that,” said the 23-year-old. “It is going to be quite an exciting race. It will be interesting to see how the Americans go in their trials. They have seen what I have done.”
As is always her wont at the British Championships, Miley is taking part in a bucketful of races and just minutes after claiming victory over 400m, she returned to the pool to contest the 200m freestyle. Showing few signs of fatigue, she booked her place in the final, coming home in 2:00.51 to keep herself in the hunt for British title No 18.
Robbie Renwick insists he has more in the tank after he stepped up his bid to secure both the British 200m freestyle title and the qualification time necessary for the World Championships. The Aberdeen swimmer qualified fastest for today’s final with a time of 1:47.76, just shy of the 1:47.47 standard required to compete in Barcelona.
Elsewhere Olympic silver medallist Michael Jamieson avoided the controversy around him to qualify for today’s 200m breaststroke semi-final.
Jamieson, who finished second at London 2012, looked like he would have to settle for second in his semi-final as fellow Olympic finalist Andrew Willis stormed to victory.
But Willis, pending a late appeal, was disqualified for a faulty stroke, leaving Jamieson as the fastest qualifier for the final as he touched home in a time of 2:11.30. And, while the disqualification of his training partner Willis was a real shock to Jamieson, the Glasgow-born swimmer insisted he still needed to up his game ahead of the final.
“I need to find a bit more form,” he said. “That was much better than the heats, that was kind of the plan to go a bit quicker in the semi-finals.
“It gives me a good gauge as to where I am at, they were queueing up behind me there and there are quite a lot of guys swimming 2:11 or 2:12 so I will definitely have to go quicker than that in the final.”
Fellow Scot Craig Benson also qualified for the final in the same event, the 19-year-old finishing third in the other semi-final in a time of 2:12.52, good enough for fifth overall barring Willis’ late appeal.
• This year British Gas is launching SwimBritain, a programme to create a healthier nation and get 500,000 people swimming more regularly by 2015. Visit www.swimbritain.co.uk/challenge