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Miley's work ethic knows no bounds

Hannah Miley is acknowledged as one of the hardest-working swimmers in Britain.

It was another routine day in the pool for Hannah Miley, who won a bronze medal in one event and reached the final in another.  Picture: Jamie Simpson
It was another routine day in the pool for Hannah Miley, who won a bronze medal in one event and reached the final in another. Picture: Jamie Simpson

In truth, it is hard to imagine that there is a harder-working swimmer in the world.

Over the years, she has invariably put her hand up to swim as many events as she can realistically fit into a major meet. After winning gold with the best swim of her life on Thursday, she spent a good deal of Friday conducting interviews, before talking to her coach, Patrick Miley, who is also her father, about how many more events she should target. They settled on five or six.

The Inverurie woman's unparalleled work ethic contributes to her popularity. The reception she received from the Tollcross crowd when she appeared yesterday for both the 200m individual medley and the 800m freestyle came as a result of the easy-going, upbeat way in which she conducts herself out of the water as much as her success in the pool.

If it is determination which makes the difference between a good and a great athlete, then it should have come as a surprise to nobody that Miley won gold in the 400m individual medley on day one of these Games, joining an exclusive club of Scottish athletes who have successfully defended a Commonwealth title. But her success proved just how quickly things in sport can change.

At the age of just 24, suggestions abounded in the build-up to Glasgow that Miley was past her best. Having won World and European championship gold medals in the two years following her maiden Commonwealth title in 2010, an Olympic medal was predicted on the opening day of London 2012. Prior to those Games, Miley was told that if Mark Cavendish did not win the road race then all eyes would be on the Scot to secure Team GB's first gold medal. It didn't happen; Miley finished fifth and gold went to the 16-year-old Chinese sensation, Ye Shiwen.

Miley did win world short-course gold in that Olympic year, but then a full 18 months passed without her medalling in a major championship and that relative drought meant that critics of Miley's training regime were not in short supply. She has stayed in her home town, ploughing her way up and down a 25m pool at Garioch AC, one of the few world-class British swimmers who does not train in an Olympic-sized pool.

On Thursday she admitted that she and her father had "gone against the grain" with their training philosophies and many observers, including multiple world champion Mark Foster, suggested that a change of coach and a move south would be beneficial to her. However, Miley is nothing if not headstrong and she stood her ground. She elucidated her decision to her detractors forcibly yet eloquently, with the air of an athlete who was convinced she was on the right path.

Her decision has, irrefutably, been vindicated at Tollcross. In the build-up all the hype had centred on Michael Jamieson but the diminutive Miley produced her best form when she needed it most on the first night, fending off the challenge of England's Aimee Willmott to fortify her place in Scotland's history books.

This home Commonwealth Games victory will not be Miley's swansong. An Olympic medal still eludes the 24-year-old and after her stunning performance here she will believe she can rectify that in Rio in 2016. Two years is a long time in swimming but Miley, metaphorically, has the biggest heart in her sport and she appears to be on an upward trajectory again. Irrespective of how the remainder of her career pans out, she has done enough to be considered one of Scotland's greatest sportswomen.

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