On the sixth and final day of the Commonwealth Games swimming programme, the water in the pool at the Dr SP Mukherjee Aquatic Complex was so murky it would have been no great surprise had some Nessie-like creature popped its head out from the gloom. There was something of a Caledonian nature in it. True Scottish grit.
The 400m individual medley is the supreme test of aquatic endurance and all-round ability: two 50m lengths of butterfly, two of backstroke, two of breaststroke and two of freestyle. By its very necessity, it takes a certain type to master it in champion style. A character with the kind of guts, not to mention class, that Hannah Miley showed in bucket- loads in the Mukherjee murk.
Four years ago Miley was the 16-year-old water baby of the Scottish team in Melbourne. She was ill in hospital a month before those 2006 Games, suffering from a virus, but still managed to finish fourth. Yesterday, the woman from Inverurie in rural Aberdeenshire – who is coached by her father, Patrick – lined up for the final with the burden of favourite and a nation's expectation weighing on her slender shoulders.
Down in sixth at the end of the butterfly leg, she gained the lead on the backstroke stint, and forged ahead on the breaststroke. She led by 2.19sec going into the last leg but then Samantha Hamill of Australia went on the charge. It was tight down the final 50m stretch but Miley hung on to win by 0.62sec. England's Keri-Anne Payne took the bronze.
Miley's winning time, 4min 38.83sec, sliced three seconds off the Games record set in Melbourne by Stephanie Rice, the Australian world record holder who chose not to defend her title in Delhi. It was a gutsy swim that said much about Patrick Miley's daughter, but only when Hannahhad finished her round of media interviews did it become clear just how deep the 5ft 6in, 8st 4lb slip of a Scots lass had been obliged to dig for her record-breaking victory.
Hannah had moved on for the medal ceremony when her father was asked whether he had been isolated in the Scottish quarters with a touch of a case of Delhi belly: "Hannah has been ill too," he said. "She's been on antibiotics for six days. She just doesn't like to talk about it."
What Hannah did talk about was the influence of her father, a kilted member of the Scottish coaching team at poolside yesterday. "I wouldn't be where I am without dad," she said. "He's the best dad in the world, and the best coach."
It is fair to say that Mr Miley is not you regular swimming coach. In his professional life he works as a helicopter pilot, flying to and from North Sea rigs. In his spare time, he's a coach at the Garioch Amateur Swimming Club in Inverurie. He's also the inventor of the Aquapacer, the tiny battery-powered pacemaker swimmers place on their temples in training, which bleep in time to a tempo programmed by the coach at poolside. Ian Thorpe, the Australian Thorpedo, was a devotee of it when he was at the peak of his world record-sinking powers. A giant sponge with weights attached is another home-made device thathas helped get his daughter to the top of the world rankings in the 400m individual medley – and on to thetop of the European Championship and Commonwealth Games medal podiums – in 2010.
"The pressure on my little shoulders has been huge," Hannah said, reflecting on the weight of expectation rather than her father's latest invention, "but this is what it has all been leading up to. It's an experience I'll treasure forever."
For the Scottish swim team, it was a second gold medal of the Games, following Robbie Renwick's victory in the 200m freestyle on Tuesday. The Scots also picked up a silver on the final day, courtesy of Michael Jamieson in the 200m breaststroke.
For England, there was no golden finale yesterday but the prolific, Delhi belly-defying Fran Halsall took her personal medal haul up to five, anchoring the 4x100m medley relay team to silver. There were also bronzes for Ellen Gandy in the 200m butterfly, for Daniel Fogg in the 1500m freestyle and for the men's 4x100m medley relay quartet. All of which made it 29 medals for the English aquatic squad, six more than in Melbourne four years ago.Reuse content