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Miley Shatters 400 IM European Record: 4:31.33

Mar 20, 2009  - Craig Lord

Hannah Miley shattered her own European record in the 400m medley at the British Gas swimming championships in Sheffield and will arrive at the world championships in Rome in July as the fourth-fastest woman ever in the event and a serious medal contender. 

The 19-year-old from Garioch in Aberdeenshire raced lonely in her Jaked Italian rubber-look suit (we known not yet how long that suit may remain in the pool as testing kicks in over the coming weeks and months) well ahead of the field to a 4:31.33 victory that swept her 1.91sec inside the European standard that she set a year ago to qualify for the Olympic Games. Miley was under the weather in China but came home from Beijing with ambition refreshed.  All three women who have swum faster than Miley are likely to await her in Rome, Stephanie Rice, the Australian who holds the world record at 4:29.45, leading Kirsty Coventry, a US-based Zimbabwean, and Katie Hoff of the USA.

The splits: 

  • Miley: 1:02.77; 2:12.40; 3:28.74; 4:31.33
  • Miley in 2008: 1:03.58; 2:12.23; 3:29.64; 4:33.24.
  • Rice's WR: 1:01.47; 2:09.83; 3:27.25; 4:29.45

Miley said: "That was so unreal. The race felt so hard, I've had a really strong, good week and that has just made it doing that. I thought that was probably going to be the hardest race to try and better my PB. I thought if I was going to get a PB it would be maybe a couple of hundredths or close to a second but to drop that much and go so close to the world record again is just amazing."

Patrick Miley, Hannah's father and coach, told SwimNews that his daughter had returned from Beijing fired up to go further. Miley races with an imaginary rival constantly ahead of her. Just as well, given that Olympic silver medal winner in the marathon, Kerri-Anne Payne of Stockport claimed silver in 4:39.89. Third place went to Aimee Willmott in 4:43.33.

Miley added: "I do need to practice racing against people because obviously what they do will have an effect on what you do. If they go out hard you might want to follow them but that might ruin your race plan. It's maybe good practice going against swimmers that are faster. I was thinking someone was ahead of me so I suppose in my mind's eye I imagined someone was there."

Miley senior was in two minds about the race: delighted that the record fell and that his daughter had performed so well, he also knew that she had an even better swim in her. That the 400m medley had come at the end of a busy week may have cost Miley a little, while the way in which she swam her race - fast 'fly, a second inside best split, poor backstroke, amazing breaststroke and very solid freestyle - suggested that significant improvements are there to be made.  

That pleased Miley senior: "I say that its best not to leave the right swim in the wrong pool."

His daughter returned to racing a little over an hour later to book another place on the team for Rome, with a 2:26.31 effort that proved the point of what we already know about Miley: like Michael Phelps, she is a member of the club that devours the effects of lactic acid even as she races a second event in one session. The silver went to Charlotte Barnes, in 2:30.49, bronze to Stacey Tadd in 2:30.73.

British head coach Dennis Pursley said: "Hannah is an incredibly focused and well-prepared athlete and if there is anyone who can go out there and do it on their own I believe it is Hannah, she just has that focus and approach to competition."

The British tally of new standards from national level upwards at these trials so far is 1, world, 4 European, 3 Commonwealth and 11 British records. Where last year the records tally was somewhat meaningless in terms of trying to monitor real progress because of the introduction of suits that gave all wearers a significant advantage on what had gone before, this year's speed line is a a touch more measurable at the surface, with most record-breakers wearing now what they wore a year ago. 

That national record tally increased in the first final of the last session of the championships when Thomas Haffield, coached by Dave Haller in Cardiff, sliced a fraction off his own British record in the 400m medley with a 4:12.39 effort that took him 0.2sec inside the standard he achieved in the same Ponds Forge pool a year ago at Olympic trials. Lewis Smith took silver in  4:14.06, a best time by 5sec, and James Goddard bronze, in 4:16.05, a best time by 3sec. Goddard led on 'fly but Haffield got past the former Commonwealth champion and Olympic 200m back finalist on the backstroke leg, increased his lead on breaststroke and was not to be challenged on freestyle.

"I'm very happy with that, it's been a hard week and to end it that way has finally put a smile on my face," Haffield said after making sure that Haller's long run of placing swimmers on GB teams continued. "At the beginning of the week I felt really groggy, in fact the warm up tonight was the first time in three weeks that I've felt good in the water. I've found it hard in training since Beijing but that performance has given me a lot of energy and I can concentrate on a big block of training now before the World Championships."

There have been plenty of signs of greater depth in the Brit ranks at the meet in Sheffield, and the drive forward continued apace in the last session of the championships . Michael Rock, coached by Sean Kelly at Stockport, steamed ahead in the final of the 100m butterfly to a 24.35 half-way split on the way to a 52.02 British record that was 0.25sec inside the standard he established last year. Silver went to Antony James, 19, in 52.45, with bronze going to Ian Hulme, on 52.67.

"I'm really happy with that, to lower my record gives me great confidence for the rest of the season," Rock said. "It was a great race and a tough field. I want to get some good preparation behind me so I can be as fast as I can for the Worlds. I'll be in on Monday starting down that road."

Adam Brown is one of the new faces of British Swimming and will be on the blocks alongside the likes of Sullivan and Bernard in Rome this summer. Coached by former Aussie international Brett Hawke at Auburn University in the States after a youth development with Chris Nesbit at the offshore centre in Australia and Nick Juba at Hatfield near London, the 19-year-old claimed his place on the Britain team by just 0.03sec ahead of backstroke ace Liam Tancock, of Loughborough. The times: 48.84 and 48.87. Third place went to Ross Davenport in 49.17, with Simon Burnett on 49.34 ahead of Ben Hockin, on 49.69. Those men are likely to make up the sprint relay.
In the women's sprint freestyle , Fran Halsall, 18 an coached at Loughborough by Ben Titley, had no-one there to press her on the way to the wall, where the clock stopped at 54.03. Caitlin McClatchey took silver in 55.06 and bronze went to Kathryn Wyld, on 55.46. Fourth went to Jo Jackson, world 400m record holder and a woman who has had a busier time on the interview circuit in the last 24 hours than in the water.

Kris Gilchrist, based with Fred Vergnoux in Paris, kept Richard Webb, 21, at bay by the skin of his teeth in the 200m breaststroke, the Olympic team member getting the touch in  2:10.60 to 2:10.75, the bronze going to 18-year-old Andrew Willis in 2:12.69. "The target was to win it and that's what I've done but I wanted to go faster than that," Gilchrist said. "I did a big personal best in the 100m event and I would have liked that in this event. I need to get back into serious training now and look at how I can drop that time at the Worlds."

Elizabeth Simmonds, Halsall's 17-year-old training partner and flatmate at Loughborough, held on to win the 200m backstroke in 2:10.48, the silver going to steady improved Georgia Davies, 18, on 2:10.96. Third went to Katherine Venters, 17, in 2:12.40. 

Olympic silver and bronze medallist David Davies, coached by Kevin Renshaw at Loughborough, raced inside his own British record pace to the 800m mark of the 1,500m freestyle before fading a little of pace throughout the rest of the race. The Commonwealth champion stopped the clock at 14:52.41 and brought the championships to an end.

"Since Beijing my emphasis has been on speed as opposed to endurance so with that in mind I'm really pleased with that performance," Davies said. "My legs felt very heavy at the end but it was a solid swim at this stage in the season. I've sacrificed a bit of distance in training to work on my speed and I've seen that come through this week. I'm working on a four year package that will see me peak in 2012 and that's a great start."

The trials will continue for some in June at Scottish nationals, Sheffield having been about first past the post. Glasgow next month will be about two things: getting the second berth in each event on time merit and doing that while proving that the swimmer and coach have done the necessary work to merit inclusion on the Britain team.

Among those who must fight on are Richard Charlesworth, of Hatfield, clocked 15:07.50 ahead of Davies's training partner, Daniel Fogg, on 15:16.59.

Pursley said that the meet had "in many ways exceeded expectations", adding: I was surprised to see swimming as fast as this as close to [after] the Olympics. To see a world record broken will always be a highlight of a competition. But beyond that the depth of quality in British swimming is improving noticeably and that is great. We have so much depth in the events that I don’t think we have really seen before and it bodes well for future success for British swimming."

Brits would have a weekend of rest and then get straight back into training. Fitting then that the squad so far selected should be paraded on the deck at Ponds Forge to the tune of Nessun Dorma from Puccini's soaring opera Tunadot.

Pursley refused to give a medal prediction for Rome 2009. Suffice it to say, he said that success would mean "just to see progress towards to our ultimate goal in London 2012, to close the gap between the USA and Australia and distance ourselves from the pack."

The first wave of Team GB bound for Rome:


  • Adam Brown Auburn University (dev: Offshore centre/Hatfield (50/100m free) Brett Hawke (Chris Nesbitt, AUS/Nick Juba, GB) 
  • Ross Davenport Loughborough (200m free) Ben Titley 
  • David Davies Loughborough (400m/1,500m free) Kevin Renshaw
  • Liam Tancock Loughborough (100m backstroke) Ben Titley
  • Chris Walker-Hebborn Offshore centre/Team Ipswich (200m backstroke) Chris Nesbitt, AUS/Dave Champion, GB
  • James Gibson Marseilles (100m breaststroke) Romain Barnier 
  • Kristopher Gilchrist Racing Club de Paris (200m breaststroke) Fred Vergnoux
  • Michael Rock Stockport Metro (100, 200m butterfly) Sean Kelly
  • James Goddard Stockport Metro (200m medley) Sean Kelly
  • Thomas Haffield City of Cardiff (400m medley) Dave Haller


  • Francesca Halsall Loughborough (50, 100m freestyle) Ben Titley
  • Joanne Jackson Loughborough (200m, 400m freestyle) Kevin Renshaw
  • Rebecca Adlington Nova Centurion (800m freestyle) Bill Furniss
  • Elizabeth Simmonds Loughborough (100, 200m backstroke) Ben Titley
  • Kate Haywood Loughborough (100m breaststroke) Ben Titley
  • Hannah Miley            Garioch (200m, 400m medley; 200m breaststroke) Patrick Miley
  • Ellen Gandy        Melbourne, AUS (100m, 200m butterfly) Rohan Taylor