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Fast-paced schedule proving that Miley is not slowing down with age

HANNAH Miley has heard the whispers:

Hannah Miley is determined to stand firm against the calls for her to move on from both her traditional training base in Inverurie and her long-standing coach, father Patrick
Hannah Miley is determined to stand firm against the calls for her to move on from both her traditional training base in Inverurie and her long-standing coach, father Patrick

she's too old, it's time to move on, step aside and let a new generation come through. Testament to her unwavering tenacity, the Garioch swimmer pays them no heed. She would like to put it on record: the only person who will decide when to call it a day, is her.

The reigning Commonwealth Games and European champion has returned recently from competing in the 2013 FINA World Cup Series in Singapore, Tokyo and Beijing, where she won two silver medals in her best event, the 400 metres individual medley.

With barely time to draw breath, Miley is back on the road again, due to contest the European Short Course Championships in Herning, Denmark, which begin today. The eagerly-anticipated Duel in the Pool, a Ryder Cup-style Europe v United States contest, then beckons in Glasgow a week on Friday.

Miley believes everything is on track for a successful 2014 Commonwealth Games next summer, steadily building a strong foundation of racing and training. "It's all money in the bank as they say," said the 24-year-old. "Hopefully, I will be at my peak and able to call upon that experience to swim my fastest. I just need to maintain my health and make sure I don't get ill or injured."

Which means avoiding incidents like breaking her hand as she did while competing at the Scottish Championships in June. While Miley went on to win the 400m individual medley at the British Championships 10 days later, it is not an experience she is in a hurry to repeat.

"It wasn't ideal," she said. "I wouldn't recommend anyone wrecking their hand before a major championships. But there was nothing else I could do, I just had to manage it. My hand is now fully healed and suffice to say I've worked my finishes a little better so it won't happen again."

Miley admits the injury had a knock-on effect on her preparation for the FINA World Championships in Barcelona in August. "Anything as acute as that is going to have some form of an impact, but I'm not one for putting excuses out there," she said. "It's one of those things. What happened, happened."

She is aware of comments made by Mark Foster, the BBC commentator, during the worlds where he suggested that she might benefit from a change in coach. Her father Patrick, a North Sea helicopter pilot and former soldier, has been the guiding hand behind his daughter's success from day one. He has a skill, she has long maintained, for knowing how to get the best from her.

Mention of Foster's remarks prompts a wry laugh from Miley. "I heard that and I also heard that I probably need to move on because I was too old," she said. "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I don't think any of them have come up to see where we train and how we operate. They don't really understand or know my situation.

"I know that the best place for me is being coached by my dad. We have the new pool opening in Aberdeen next March and I think that will have a hugely positive impact on my training because it means I won't need to keep travelling down to Stirling for long course."

But that does not mean Miley plans to turn her back on the 25-metre pool in Inverurie, where she famously carved her career and still trains alongside her younger brothers - and sparring partners - Alastair and Joseph. "I know it's not the best facility in the world but it's got me to where I am today," she said.

"I guess because the results I got in Barcelona weren't what everyone expected [she was fifth in the 400m individual medley] they are trying to find reasons, and one of them was 'maybe she needs to move on'.

"I would like to stand my ground. I've got a bit of Celtic stubbornness in me. The relationship I have with, and the way I'm coached by my dad works. I'm the fastest in Britain and have held European records before. Okay, it wasn't the performance I was looking for [at the worlds] but there were things that happened before Barcelona that didn't help. I do think I've got a lot to prove."

She cites Katinka Hosszu, the 24-year-old Hungarian who set a raft of new world records in August, and New Zealand's Lauren Boyle who, at the ripe old age of 25, claimed three medals in the 2013 World Championships, as shining examples that advancing years is no barrier in swimming.

"Age is just a number," said Miley. "As long as you've got the determination, right support and drive, it's possible to keep going however old you are. Those girls inspire me. People, like Mark Foster, I just have to ignore. I need to do what is best for me."

Hannah Miley is one of thousands of swimmers who took part in Scottish Gas SwimBritain this summer. Information on 2014 events coming soon.

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