Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Hannah Miley announces retirement from competitive swimming

It seems apt to hear of Hannah Miley’s retirement from competitive swimming at a milestone in the calendar, with the 1st December marking 17 years to the day since she won her first international medal on debut for Scotland at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Bendigo in 2004.

Three Olympic Games, four Commonwealth Games, World and European Championships galore, numerous World Cup appearances later, and the international medal tally has risen considerably, and Hannah Miley can leave her competitive racing career safe in the knowledge that she has achieved more than most of us could ever dream of.

Her swimming ‘career’ started at Garioch ASC based in Inverurie where she was coached by her father Patrick.  Instead of heading to one of the more established performance centres, Miley stayed at Garioch, training in a small, local pool, until the new 50m facility was built in Aberdeen in 2014.

Miley’s first international GBR cap was in 2005 at the European Junior Championships in Budapest where she won silver in the 400m IM. A year later, aged 16, she earned her first senior cap, representing Scotland at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, which is where the competitive fire was really lit. Miley said of her first Commonwealth Games experience,

“Looking back it was definitely Melbourne where I made the decision to focus on performance swimming. I was sixteen and it was an important time at school but in my head I felt that I could study until I was 99 years old, but at 99 years old I couldn’t pursue an Olympic swimming career.”

Despite already being a contender at the top of the medley rankings in the UK, it wasn’t all plain sailing for Miley. Post Melbourne she was selected to her first senior European Long Course Championships in Budapest where her performance was below par, resulting in her missing out on the 2007 World Championships as well as automatic selection to the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

But with Hannah comes resilience and a desire to use every setback as a learning opportunity. And learn she did, qualifying for her first Olympic Games (Beijing 2008) racing in the 200m, 400m IM and as part of the 4x200m freestyle relay. She made the 400 IM final on Games debut where she finished 6th. She finished 11th overall in the 200 IM and Great Britain finished 9th overall in the relay.

2010 was a significant breakthrough year in terms of international medals for Miley. At the European Championships in Hungary, Miley raced to a new championship record in the 400m IM, winning gold and beating home favourite Katinka Hosszu by more than three seconds. Miley added bronze medals in the 200m IM and the 4x200m freestyle relay.

At the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Miley had a busy meet competing in five events and making the final in each. Her best performance unsurprisingly came in the 400m IM where she had another gold medal performance in a new games record.

All eyes turned to London for the Olympics in 2012, where again Miley contested the individual medley events and the relay. Miley finished outside the medals finishing 5th in the 400m IM and 7th in the 200m IM. The 4x200m freestyle saw GBR finish in 5th.

At the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow Miley provided early celebration, retaining her 400m IM crown to the delight of the home crowd. She made it on the podium again, winning bronze in the 200m IM. She also made the final in the 200m breaststroke and 400m freestyle finishing 4th, 800m freestyle and 4x200m freestyle relay finishing 5th and the 200m butterfly finishing 6th. Miley said of Glasgow,

“Glasgow was absolutely incredible, but I did feel the pressure. The swimming programme was changed to put the 400m IM up front. It was the first final on the opening day of the meet. It was a lot to take on, but by that stage in my career I had learned not to overthink things and just to focus on the race like I would at any other swimming event.”

But along with such euphoric highs come lows, and none of us will forget how close Miley came to fulfilling her Olympic ambition in the final of the 400m IM in Rio, where she lost out to a medal by a mere 0.15 of a second.

Miley said of this moment,

“I still wonder what 0.15 looks like, is it two blinks of an eye? Looking back I absolutely believe that Rio was the biggest turning point in my career. I was devastated not to be on the podium, but it has turned into one of my biggest life lessons, which I’ll always be grateful to have.

“Reflecting on my performance I can say hand on heart that the final I swam in Rio was the best performance I could have given at the Games. I know that success isn’t always about winning medals, and I know that don’t need medals to validate who I am as an athlete. My self-worth is far more important.

“That was a real epiphany moment for me and because of that, while I missed out on a medal, I do consider Rio a career highlight, as it has taught me so much more than winning a medal would have done.”

2018 saw Miley selected for her fourth consecutive Commonwealth Games. Travelling to the Gold Coast Miley was on for a historic hattrick of Golds in the 400m IM but was edged out on the touch by English swimmer Aimee Willmott, but still picked up a superb silver medal.

Later in the year Miley earned another silver in the 400m IM at the 2018 European Championships in Glasgow.

Miley’s contribution to swimming is matched by very few. She has swam at the highest level for over 15 years and is as passionate about swimming now as she has always been. Scottish Swimming’s National Coach, Alan Lynn, said of Hannah,

“Hannah will be missed on the National Team for her resilience, competitiveness and total focus on performance. I hope she continues to be connected to Scottish Swimming as a mentor to swimmers and coaches, passing on her knowledge and experience.”

So what next for Miley? Laughing when asked if she would quietly disappear from poolside, she said,

“I’m only retiring from competitive swimming. I will be swimming for the rest of my life as I really enjoy how the sport gives me structure and routine. I’m also keen to give back to the sport, share my stories and my journey with the next generation.

“I remember going to the Olympic Trials in Sheffield in 2000. Speedo had created loads of posters of the likes of James Hickman, Karen Pickering, Graeme Smith etc. Don’t ask me how, but I managed to secure a set of these posters and like all the other young kids at the meet, I was hanging over the balcony when the swimmers went by, trying to secure autographs.

“It was Graeme Smith who stopped and took the time to sign it for me. It really must have inspired me as I remember the moment so vividly even to this day, and that poster was on my wall for a long time.”

When asked what advice she would pass onto young, up and coming swimmers, Miley finished by saying,

“Be patient with what you do. Consistency is key and don’t be afraid of setbacks. Setbacks don’t define you, what defines you is how you overcome them. As long as you have passion and drive to go forward, you will enjoy the journey.”

We are delighted that Hannah stays connected with our sport, sharing her experience, championing girls in sport and delivering talks and pilates sessions to Clubs across Scotland. She is also the Ambassador to our Young Volunteer Programme.

Thank you and congratulations on a wonderful career Hannah. We look forward to seeing what the next chapter holds for you.

To view Hannah’s own announcement, which was written by Craig Lord, please click HERE.