Hannah Miley is out to make waves when she returns to international competition after London 2012 at the European Short Course Championships which begin in Chartres, France, tomorrow.

The Garioch swimmer, who won silver and bronze at last year's event in Szczecin, Poland, heads an 18-strong Great Britain team and with the World Short Course Championships taking place in Turkey next month, Miley faces a hectic spell in the build-up to Christmas.

"It's just a case of fine-tuning my training and these championships will give me an idea of what is working and what is not and what I still have to improve on. It's good to get together as a team again and get to race – the more you race, the better it is," she said. "Getting time to rest between the two competitions is difficult because they are so close together but it's always exciting being able to race."

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Miley missed out on a medal at London 2012 but has set her sights on a successful defence of her Commonwealth 400m medley title in Glasgow in 2014.

"I had just more than two weeks off after competition and got to enjoy the second week of the Olympics. I had a week where I just got to chill out and get my head around things and start up for the new season.

"Swimmers always say they can't wait for a break and when they get on a break, they think: 'Now what?' When we're told we don't have to do anything we're lost.

"The Olympics were the best two weeks of my life. They were pretty special and pretty spectacular. I was amazed at how the whole country got behind it. Everybody seemed sad when it was over and it was an incredible experience. It was nice hearing so many people who weren't interested in sport really take it on board. Without the home support, it would certainly have been less exciting.

"Hopefully, Scotland can reproduce that for the Commonwealth Games in 2014 – that'd be awesome. To have two home events in such a short space of time is unusual for an athlete in their career and we're very lucky to be able to experience it."

Miley works as an ambassador for Scottish Gas and has been taking masterclasses with Scottish schoolchildren to show them what is required to become a world-class swimmer.

Miley believes the build-up to the Commonwealths is the perfect time to encourage young people to take up swimming. She knows how hard it is to put in the hours required to be an elite performer but is urging schoolchildren not to give up on their dreams.

"It is a very unforgiving sport," she says. "If I can direct them in a way where they want to learn more, then that is positive. Hopefully, they can adapt their skills and who knows, we might be looking at future Commonwealth and Olympic champions.

"Everyone needs a role model. My dad [Patrick] worked in America when I was younger and brought back a couple of swimming posters for me and there was one girl in particular, Misty Hyman, who inspired me.

"She won a gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and she caused a big upset. She beat the home-crowd favourite to win the 200m butterfly and it was the way she did it that made its mark on me.

"She was the only person smiling behind the blocks; she looked confident and happy to be there. She had practised the race enough so that nothing fazed her. She retired not long after that. She had done what she needed to do and that was it and she went into swim schools and started taking masterclasses. Kids do need role models. The motivation can be challenging and, if you can direct kids to make the right choices, you can set them up to be great athletes.

"They say talent can win but attitude will win. I just kept working at what I was weakest at and made it my strength. Even going to the Scottish nationals, there were a couple of girls who always used to beat me but they have now gone on to other things and not stayed with the sport.

"I remember when I was 12, I went to Sheffield for the ASA Nationals for the first time and I freaked out. It was the first time I'd seen a 10-lane, 50-metre pool and there were kids from all over Britain. I swam terribly and didn't even make a final. But I stuck at it and gradually it all clicked."