Hannah Miley spends 12 hours a day in oxygen tent

Had anyone else been involved, it might have all seemed a little surreal. Sitting in a roomful of swimmers, who have all been selected to represent Scotland at Gold Coast 2018, there is a group of journalists set slightly apart, all gathered around a mini tablet, conducting an interview via skype with someone sitting in their bedroom over a hundred miles away.
Double gold: Hannah Miley  in action in the pool earlier this year, top  celebrates winning in Delhi, above, and Glasgow, far left.
Photographs: Getty ImagesDouble gold: Hannah Miley  in action in the pool earlier this year, top  celebrates winning in Delhi, above, and Glasgow, far left.
Photographs: Getty Images
Double gold: Hannah Miley  in action in the pool earlier this year, top  celebrates winning in Delhi, above, and Glasgow, far left. Photographs: Getty Images

But the person holding court is Hannah Miley, and she has never been one to conform to the norm, not if she thinks it will help her development.

She could have made the trip down from Inverurie to Stirling for the Team Scotland announcement and photo-call but that would have disrupted not only her training but also her recovery, which she is hoping will be aided by camping out in an oxygen tent.

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So, instead, there she is, sitting on her bed, enclosed in a shelter, talking about the number of books she is looking forward to getting through and laughing about how the 12-hours-per-day camping sessions get her out of washing-up duties.

Allowed out for breakfast and training, she will eat lunch and dinner in the makeshift accommodation, and she will sleep in there but, still smiling, she says that at the end of it, she will hopefully be in even better shape to tackle the challenge of becoming the first Scot ever to win three gold medals in the same Commonwealth event at three successive games.

“I have done it before, it is to simulate being at altitude. I am going to be in it for like 12 hours plus a day which is going to be quite tricky, but it is just another crazy bit to add to training. I am not normal!

“For now, it is just getting into a routine. I recently moved as well so I had the joys of trying to get everything up to the top floor flat so for that I owe a lot to my fiancé Euan who did a lot of carrying. I’m just in the tent.

“It is tough because it does interrupt my recovery because my body is constantly having to work. But I think once I come out of the tent I’ll go through a bit of an adaptation phase and might see the returns a couple of weeks later. We may try it again depending on the results.

“We are just trialling it, I haven’t used it for this length of time before so we will just see how it is going in the next couple of weeks and then see if it is making any difference to my physiology.”

The Gold Coast venue sees Miley return to Australia, the country where she made her Commonwealth Games debut, in Melbourne, in 2006.

That remains Scotland’s most successful ever overseas Games, with swimming not only making a positive impact on the medal tally but, as one of the first sports to get under way, also generating such a positive momentum for the whole team to amass 29 medals, 11 of them gold. Of that haul, the swimmers contributed six gold, three silver and three bronze and although Miley was not a contributor in her debut appearance, she was inspired and has gone on to triumph in both Delhi and in Glasgow, where she won both gold and bronze, in the 400m and 200m individual medley respectively.

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“I feel like I have come full circle because my first Commonwealth Games was when I was 16, in 2006, in Melbourne, so coming back for my fourth Games, also in Australia, on the Gold Coast, feels quite exciting,” said the 28-year-old.

There have been highs and lows over the years but the expression that earned her the “Smiley Miley” moniker remains an almost ever-present. As does the determination that adds muscle and drive to the technique of a petite performer who is often dwarfed by those who line up alongside her on the blocks.

She is acutely aware of the level of expectation she takes into every race, especially when representing Scotland. The fact that she is also on the cusp of making history is also acknowledged.

“Yes, no pressure there! I am very aware of it and one of the things that is exciting me about being part of this team is getting the chance to try for it. Whether I am successful on the day who knows, but it is kind of cool to know that I have this opportunity,” she said.

“It would be amazing, but it won’t come without its challenges and there are a lot of people out there raising their game. The pool is outdoors so that throws up different challenges too.”

As one of the team’s more seasoned performers (youngsters on the team, who can’t mask their respect, insist on using “more experienced” rather than “older” to describe her) she will have a crucial role to play in guiding debutants through their first Games.

Drawing on her memories of 2006, her advice is to embrace every moment and every opportunity, insisting that it is exciting to be part of. “I remember it very, very well in 2006,” she said. “You had Gregor Tait, David Carry, Caitlin McClatchey and Euan Dale – they all came away with so many medals, the fact it was called the catalyst was quite exciting because the Scots produced top level swimmers and hopefully it gave people idols. Whenever we go to a Games we have the previous Games’ history of how many medals and the targets that are set. But the swimmers on this team are professional in every sense, one of the best we have put together, and I am really excited to see what we can produce and see if it inspires the next generation.”