Everyone needs something to relate to. For a young Stephen Milne, watching the 2004 Olympic games, it was something as simple as a name.
“I was watching TV and there was a guy called Steve Parry who got bronze in the 200m fly and I said to my mum ‘it is really cool, he has the same name as me’ and that was when I decided that what I wanted to do was be in the Olympics,” he said.
“I didn’t know that Commonwealths or Europeans existed, but then I watched the Commonwealths two years later and saw Scotland put in an amazing performance, their best ever, in the swimming. It has been my dream since then to win those medals. I have ticked some of the boxes, but there is more to come and I have tried to get better and better to hopefully get more medals.”
Now 23, Milne has a World Championships gold, and Olympic and Commonwealth silver in the 4x200m freestyle and has World, European and Commonwealth final appearances under his belt in events such as the 400m, 800m and 1,500m freestyle.
He would love to bolster that tally, on the Gold Coast, in April, when Team Scotland head south in search of an even more impressive souvenir haul than they managed the last time the Commonwealth Games was held in Australia, in 2006.
Back then, the swimmers amassed six golds, three silvers and three bronze, and contributed to what remains Scotland’s biggest medal return from an overseas Commonwealth Games.
“I do remember the first day and Caitlin McClatchey and David Carry winning gold. I remember the 4 x 200m winning silver as well and watching Robbie Renwick. A few years later I swam at the Scottish nationals and he shook my hand on the podium as I was junior champion and that was such a big moment. To see someone like that close up was amazing and since then I’ve done a lot with Robbie. We went to the Commonwealth Games and got silver and in Rio as well so he has helped me and guided me and he is a great guy as well. It is weird to think what [watching those Games] meant to me and then be team-mates.”
Now Milne is one of the senior members of the squad, a guy who has been there and done it and who will be expected to not only deliver himself but also help the newcomers. It is a long way from sitting at home as a ten-year-old, watching a guy called Steve, and deciding where his dreams lay.
“That was the spark, though. That’s when I wanted to commit to competitive swimming. I didn’t know all the things I would have to go through on the journey to get to where I am, but I’d say I have had tremendous support from my family and school too, because it was quite hard to balance school and swimming.
“My mum would get up at like 5am and she wouldn’t have to drag me out of bed but she got me to all the competitions and all the family have been really supportive.”
But while the route to the top has not been easy, Milne does not describe those years of dedication or any of the tough choices he has had to make as sacrifices. “I don’t really see it like that. We all have to step back to take a look at what we have been through and decide if it is worth it. It is always what I have wanted to do and have the opportunity to do and see where it takes me. I regret nothing. I have had amazing opportunities.
“Glasgow four years ago was amazing and nothing will compare, a tremendous feeling. So I would not trade anything – the experiences or the medals.”