Hannah Miley (8 August, 1989) is a British individual medley swimmer and ranks among the top echelons of the discipline worldwide.
Hannah’s first experience on the international podium was at the 2005 European Junior Championships in Budapest, where she won a silver medal in the 400m IM. She followed this up later in the year at her first international senior meet with a sixth place finish in the same event at the European Short Course Championships in Trieste. Her encouraging start didn’t immediately materialize into medal placings on the senior competition circuit, as 2006 saw final appearances but no medals at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne and the European Championships in Budapest.
After a promising start to 2008 at World Short Course Championships in Manchester – where she picked up a silver medal in the 400m IM and a bronze in the 200m IM – Hannah had a disappointing Olympic Games in Beijing, and failed to pick up a medal at the year-end’s European Short Course Championships with two fourth-placed finishes. An agonizing fourth-placed finish at the 2009 World Championships in Rome – where she missed out on the bronze medal by less than half a second and was just 0.6s behind second place – was followed by a gold medal at the European Short Course Championships in Istanbul, where she won the 400m IM and earned a bronze in the 200m IM. A week later at the Duel in the Pool in Manchester, she broke the European Short Course record as she placed third in the 400m IM.
The rewards that Hannah’s hard work deserved finally came to fruition in 2010, when she won her first 400m IM European Championship in Budapest in a championship record time, and also picked up a bronze in the 200m IM. Two months later in New Delhi, she picked up another 400m IM gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. Her European Championship efforts produced the fastest 400m IM time of the year.
Miley went into the 2011 World Championships in Shanghai behind good preparation, which included the third best 400m IM time of the year to date, and 200m and 400m IM victories at the Mare Nostrum meet in Monte Carlo where she twice beat Kirsty Coventry into second place. While her finished seventh in the 200m IM, it was her 400m IM performance that stood out – turning well down the field at the halfway point, she produced a phenomenal second half of the race to pip Australia’s Stephanie Rice by one-hundredth of a second to the silver medal, and her first world LC championship medal.
She went into the 2012 London Olympics with high hopes, having swum the second-fastest 400m IM time of the year-to-date. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to turn her performances into a medal, and she finished fifth in the 400m IM, seventh in the 200m IM, and fifth as part of the Great Britain 4x200m freestyle team.
Hannah came back from disappointment at the Olympics in December to win a gold and two silver medals at the European Short Course event in France and followed that up with gold and bronze medals at the world event in Turkey, ending 2012 on a real high and breaking championship records at both.
For Hannah Miley, swimming is a family affair. Not only is father Patrick her coach, her two younger brothers are also swimmers, and mother Carmel provides the backbone, giving support and being so closely tuned in that she can anticipate the health and dietary needs of her aquatic offspring. Having such a tight-knit and supportive family unit is vital for Hannah, since for the most part she trains alone, swimming her grinding lengths at a small 25m pool with just four lanes in Inverurie, the small Scottish town they live in. On days when lively swimmers share the pool with Hannah, the choppy water can seem like the wind-blown North Sea not far away.
It’s the same pool that three-year-old Hannah first showed her affinity for water, and where she started swimming regularly as a six-year-old, already demonstrating at an early age a prodigious work ethic to go with her talent. Father Patrick’s methods are nothing if not creative– she often trains with a belt tied around her waist, dragging sponges behind her. In the mid-1990s he invented the Aquapacer, which transmits a beep to a receiver attached to the swimmer’s goggles in order for them to monitor and regulate their swimming stroke. When he’s not coaching his daughter, the ex-army man flies helicopters between nearby Aberdeen and the offshore oil rigs. In 2010 he was named the British Swimming Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year.
Hannah’s career has had its share of ups and downs, and it’s testament to her dedication that she continues to rebound and look for ways to improve. Her belief that everything happens for a reason, and that you can find positives in every experience – even the bad ones – is central to her character. Success in swimming, she believes, is all about application and attitude, something that’s required in large doses when she rises for her three-mile run through the thick coastal Scottish fog to her 6am morning training sessions. Her 2010 European 400m IM title is therefore no less than she deserves, but it’s been coming – in 2008 she swam the 5th fastest 400 IM of the year, in 2009 the fourth, and in 2010, the fastest (her Euro Championship swim). Her 2011 400m IM silver medal in Shanghai was no less of a victory, and the wordless after-race hug with her father showed how much it meant to both of them.
With the 2012 Olympics taking place in her home country, there was much talk about the potential of British athletes winning medals, which naturally created pressure. For Hannah, the disappointment of not realizing the dream of winning an Olympic medal added to her to her drive and saw her take home Gold medals at the World and European short course championships in December 2012. Who knows what Team Miley and her application and attitude might still deliver in the future?