Thoughts on Tokyo 2020

The Paralympic Games in Tokyo was historic in so many ways. There are the obvious permutations of hosting the games a year late and in the middle of a global pandemic – Full credit and respect to everyone that made the games happen, particularly those behind the scenes that worked tirelessly in an almost impossible situation.

It’s fair to say these games were a huge success, the key to that was the host city providing an unbelievable platform; the world media getting behind the games, bringing it to a global audience; and finally, the athletes doing what they do best, performing to incredible levels and achieving feats beyond perceived limits of human capability.

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics continued the upwards trend of the movement in terms of relevance, importance and sheer entertainment.

For me personally, it was difficult to watch a games that I believed I deserved to be a part of. Tokyo was always likely to be my last games in athletics, and not to be given the opportunity to go out on my terms and on the field of play, really hurt. You don’t get everything you deserve though, something I’ve learned through my 25-year career in sport. I will have to deal with my thoughts and emotions, then move on.

However, that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for watching Paralympic GB athletes bring in medal after medal. For Great Britain to finish second in the medal table once again is a monumental effort, given the global diversity of the games, as well as the sheer strength and depth of other countries. It shows that the investment by the Government, the National Lottery and UK Sport in Paralympic sport really delivers. To see how seriously our country takes the Paralympics, combined with the ever incredible coverage from Channel 4, is awe inspiring.

My highlights of the games were the wheelchair rugby team winning Gold for the first time; David Smith fighting the odds to defend his individual Boccia title; and the T64 men’s 100m final, the quickest and closest race in Paralympic history. All were exactly what we want to see from the Paralympics – competitive; unpredictable; exciting. This was sport at it’s finest. Unlike any other sporting event, the Paralympics not only showcases sporting ability and drama, but it also carries such powerful and important narrative on the triumph of the human spirit, overcoming adversity, turning negative into positive, challenging perspectives and maximising potential – it was great to see those messages coming through loud and clear.

For my event, the F32 Club Throw, I must admit that the results were disturbing. For an athlete to break the World Record by 8 metres, which represents an over 20% increase, is alarming. I know that sport naturally progresses over time, but such a big jump is not natural, especially in an event that has been developing and progressing over the last 25-30 years. Even in my case, I took the World Record from 27 metres to 34 metres, but it happened gradually over an eleven-year period and there were always athletes close behind me.

I do worry about the future of the F32 class, it is one of the most vulnerable in the Paralympics and work need to be done to protect it and ensure the most severely impaired athletes with cerebral palsy can compete in Para-athletics. I presently don’t think this is the case.

At Tokyo 2020, I ran to be elected to the IPC Athletes’ Council. I’ve always been passionate about athlete representation, and this seemed a natural progression for me given my work as an athlete rep with British Athletics and World Para Athletics. Sadly, I was unsuccessful and didn’t receive enough votes – Tokyo really wasn’t my games! I will continue in my current roles though and am providing input and feedback to the current IPC Classification Review, which is so important for the future of the Paralympics.

The Paralympics are the pinnacle of disability sport, and for all the successes, there is still much to be done to ensure fair and equal competition, especially for those with high support needs. When I was young, I was told I was too disabled to be competitive in athletics, I hope I helped to disprove that and inspire others like me through my endeavours – I fear future generations may not be as lucky as I’ve been.

Despite my apprehensions, I still love the sport and am grateful for all the opportunities it’s given me. For a skinny, ginger, Geordie kid to compete at 6 Paralympics, win 3 gold medals in a row, hold a World Record for eleven years, then come back from hip replacement surgery and compete for another 9 years, is nuts!

What a ride it’s been. I may have been denied my ending, but the memories will always remain.

Vote Stephen Miller for the IPC Athlete’s Council

I am running to be elected to the IPC Athlete’s Council in the elections taking place at the Tokyo Paralympics. See below all information relating to my campaign, including my manifesto and supporting videos.

It would be a huge honour to be elected and be able to grow my work as an athlete advocate within the Paralympic movement. I have 25 years of experience of Paralympic sport and would be grateful for the opportunity to use my experience as a member of the IPC Athlete’s Council.

The areas I’m passionate about are:
– Harnessing and empowering the athlete voice.
– Support for High Support Needs Athletes.
– Fairness and transparency in classification.

Click here for my info on the Paralympic website

See my manifesto below.

Below are some supporting videos explaining the motivations behind my campaign and what I would bring to the IPC Athlete’s Council.

A bit about me…

What are my passions?

Why am I running?

What’s my plan?

Why is the athlete voice so important?

Statement on Tokyo Paralympics

Sadly, I have to announce today that my dream of competing in my 7th consecutive Paralympic Games in Tokyo, is over.

Last week I learned that I had not been selected in the British Para Athletics team for Tokyo, the selection panel didn’t feel I was a medal prospect. Recently I was informed by email that my appeal against my non-selection was unsuccessful.

That means for the first time in 25 years I won’t be competing in the men’s F32 Club Throw event at the Paralympics. It also means that there are no male seated throwers in the British team going to Tokyo, very sad indeed.

It’s a very strange and weird feeling not to be selected for the team. I’m disappointed not to have been given the opportunity to win another Paralympic medal, having worked so hard to put myself in a good position to do so. I’m the only World Class Performance Podium funded athlete not to be selected for Tokyo – that hurts.

It feels like Deja Vu from 2019, when I wasn’t selected for the World Championships – the first time in my entire career that I hadn’t been selected for a GB team. I know that no one has a God-given right to be selected, but I feel that I haven’t been given the rub of the green again.

I’ve shown this year that I can still compete at the highest level with my performances at the European Championships, where I narrowly missed out on a medal against 3 of the best athletes in the world. I then showed form and fitness with 30.44m at the English Championships in Bedford.

30 metres is the benchmark for Club Throw and this is my 22nd consecutive season where I’ve thrown over 30 metres – something I’m very proud of. To have thrown 31.50m in the qualification period and not be considered medal potential is crazy. It’s a hard decision for me to accept and get my head around.

It’s very hard to take that my Paralympic journey has been ended like this, I know I would’ve challenged for a medal in Tokyo and represented GB to the fullest. This is not the end for me, I still have a lot to give this sport and I enjoy it too much to stop now. I will still be chucking sticks in future.

It will be so strange to be watching the Paralympics from home, but I will be supporting the team intently. There are lots of great athletes going to Tokyo and I wish them all the best, I’m sure they’ll do brilliantly. Special regards to fellow Gateshead Harrier Anna Nicholson, who is going to her first Games.

I will still be involved with the Games as I am the ParalympicsGB nomination for the IPC Athletes Council. The vote is taking place in Tokyo where the athletes will vote 6 new members onto the Council. I hope to be elected so I can continue to have a positive influence on the Paralympic movement that I care so much about. I won’t be in Tokyo to lobby for votes so I will be campaigning from afar.

There will be no lucky 7th Paralympics for me this year. I want to thank everyone for their support in my journey, not least my incredible Mam who has battled the pain and discomfort of needing a new hip to be at every training session and competition as my coach this year. Also, to my amazing wife who is my rock through thick and thin.

This one pinches, but Team Miller will be back.

Antidote

When your world gets a little bit wild
and you’re swimming against the tide,
step back and smile.

When the pain gets too much to bear
and it seems that no one cares,
look around and smile.

When you’re feeling all alone
and not sure who to phone,
reach out and smile.

When you want to close your eyes,
because you’re scared of what’s outside,
open the curtains and smile.

When you don’t know what to do
and you’re getting in a stew,
take a deep breath and smile.

When life gets too much
and you’re dwelling in a rut,
break out and smile.

When yesterday brings sorrow
and you’re dreading what comes tomorrow,
embrace today and smile.

When you’re all in a daze
and feel like you’re in a maze,
snap out of it and smile.

When you don’t know where to turn
for fear of what will burn,
chill out and smile.

When there’s too much noise
and you can’t regain your poise,
take a seat and smile.

When you want to help others
but don’t know how to be discovered,
stand tall and unleash your smile.

When everyone seems so far away
and this strange way of life appears here to stay,
say ‘We’ll meet again’ and smile.

When you’re searching for a cure,
you’ve got the best antidote for sure,
and it’s your smile.

The Important

What’s important?
Who’s to say,
I guess it changes
day by day.

We make our world revolve around things,
like work and money and being in a hurry.
These things always seem like they cannot wait
and we’re in a constant state of worry
that we’re going to be late.

For me,
number seven will have to wait
and there’s very little time until what could be number eight,
but I know these aren’t the biggest things on my plate.

What’s great about us,
is how we don’t make a fuss
in our darkest moments,
we can rearrange our focus,
happy to share
our greatest gifts
and put in a shift
for the sake of others.
Not just for family and friends –
strangers, foreigners, neighbours, dangers – the list never ends.

Caring is the important.

Putting others up
in the air, with love.
Way above
our own self worth.
That’s what we are for and that’s when we are more
than just a person.

We’re a people and this is our purpose.

Making it up

In the weeks and months to come,
will we reflect on the things we’ve done
since when we were young?
So often
the world feels like it’s on fire,
like life seems to conspire
against our very hopes and dreams,
drying up streams and polluting our means.
With an infinity of time ahead,
who are we to say what will happen
or what does actually matter.
It’s time to block out all the chatter
and the clitter clatter.
Every breath is a scoop from life’s lake,
how many breaths are left is anyone’s take,
savour each breath you hold in your chest
without worrying about what comes next.

Gotta Get Through This

As the lead of the World Para-Athletics Athlete Advisory Group, I regularly take part in Global Athlete Rep calls with the IPC and the Athlete Council. The latest call took place yesterday, with updates and discussions focusing on the issues arising from the Corona Virus Pandemic.

The loud and clear message is that, at the present moment, Tokyo 2020 is going ahead as planned and all efforts are geared towards making this happen. There are no other plans apart from Plan A – which is for the games to run this summer – There aren’t any contingency plans or any deadlines in place for final decisions. This does seem a little concerning given the current situation which is currently a global crisis with many countries in lock down. What I would say is that the stance of the IOC and Japanese Government reflects how difficult, indeed how almost impossible it would be to delay or postpone the games, and how catastrophic it would be to cancel them.

I can say that there are a lot of people are working very hard and discussions are taking place regularly between the IPC and all stakeholders. This situation though is unprecedented, very complex and is changing all the time. Nobody knows the answers to all the questions and any answers we do have are likely to go out of date very quickly.

It is obviously a frustrating time for everyone involved in professional sport, particularly for Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Olympics and Paralympics don’t come round often and for many athletes this is the most important year of their career and life, to have preparations compromised just a few months before the games is hard to process.

I’m no different, I plan every year with my team very carefully and in fine detail. I was all set and revved up to start my season in Dubai last weekend so it’s a bit strange have to back off training and to think that I might not compete until June or July and may have to find creative ways train within the confines of social distancing and self isolation. However I do think we have to realise that this crisis goes beyond sport and is ultimately about protecting the human race from a nasty virus that has the potential to kill a lot of people. All athletes are in the same boat, I’m trying to re-frame it in a positive way and use this experience as a way to develop my resilience and come up with creative ways to stay in shape and get prepared whilst being at home – this could help me in years to come.

There are many profound and difficult challenges to overcome if the games are to be held this summer, not least around qualification and classification. It’s impossible to have definitive solutions while the crisis is still escalating and evolving but I think the authorities should be prepared for all eventualities, and to have not even considered a Plan B in the event of postponement or cancellation is a bit surreal to me and shows a lack of foresight, responsibility and leadership – it’s like the IOC and Japanese Government have their heads in the sand and don’t want to comprehend something that is unthinkable to them.

The outbreak  is showing signs of slowing in Asia but the rest of the world is battling to prevent and contain the virus, being weeks and possibly months from the peak of the outbreak. It doesn’t really seem particularly fair to hold a global competition under those circumstances.

As athletes, all we can do is be empathetic, respectful and responsible, preparing safely as best we can for whenever the time may come that we can compete.

Any decisions going forward will be made by the IOC and Japanese Government. I do sincerely hope we overcome the outbreak and that that games can go ahead as planned, but more so I hope any decisions are, as promised, taken with health, well-being, safety and fairness as the main concerns, and not simply economics.

Me and My Wife

When we met each other
We didn’t run for cover
There was so much to discover
We were all over each other
We got each other
We get each other
We pet each other
We let each other
get in, under the skin
We put each other in a spin
With our touch
With our looks
We’re alive together
So much more than lovers
We’re friends
Til the end
Willing to spend
Our time
Sharing views
Thinking as one
Blinking as one
Knowing we’re not done
We are the sun
To each other
Warming
Lighting
Exciting
We are in Love.

 

 

 

 

Speedflex to Hold Fundraising Challenge in Support of Stephen Miller’s Tokyo 2020 Campaign

 

stephenmiller_1_originalDo you like working out and keeping fit? Like a challenge? Speedflex Jesmond are looking for 80 to 100 people to sign up to complete a challenge of doing 50,000 clean and presses in a day to help Paralympian Stephen Miller achieve his dream of competing in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. The challenge will take place on Friday the 13th December at the Speedflex Jesmond centre in the Fleming Business Centre, Jesmond between 6.30am and 7pm.

Participants will work in pairs to complete as many clean and presses as possible in a 45-minute session on the revolutionary Speedflex machines, with the aim of hitting a minimum 500 reps in a session and a cumulative total of 50,000 by 7pm.

Participants can choose what time they would like to complete their part of the challenge, it’s free to take part, all that is asked is to raise a minimum £50 in sponsorship that will go towards local Paralympian Stephen Miller’s campaign to get into the GB team for next year’s Tokyo Paralympics and get on the podium.

The money raised will help with the cost of competitions, training camps and equipment as Miller looks to qualify for his 7th Paralympics. The funds could be even more vital as Stephen faces the prospect of losing his Lottery funding support.

The campaign website can be found here:
https://www.pledgesports.org/projects/tokyo-2020-vision/

This is a great opportunity to be part of an exciting challenge and push your physical limits as well as experiencing the revolutionary Speedflex training system if you haven’t already. Speedflex machines provide a way of training that is suitable for all ages and abilities, it has low impact on joints, is very adaptable and results in little to no muscle soreness.

Stephen said “Training at Speedflex was instrumental in my recovery from total hip replacement surgery in 2012. The low impact and high intensity resistance training was ideal for my rehab and I was able to get back into full training just 6 months after surgery, since then it has been an integral part of my training and played an important part in my Bronze medal winning performance in the Rio 2016 Paralympics.”

“The staff and clients at Speedflex have always given me huge support and I’m delighted that they are opening up their studio for this challenge to help me on my journey to Tokyo 2020, it’s an amazing gesture. This is a tough challenge, but I always say nothing worth doing in life is easy and I’m sure participants will get a lot of satisfaction from taking part, as well as burning off calories before the Christmas season.”

“This is ideal for anyone who likes a challenge and enjoys pushing their body to the limit, I know I do! I would be so grateful to everyone that gets involved. In taking part you are joining the ever-expanding Team Miller and becoming part of history. Book your place and take part in a very different challenge.”

To book your place contact Speedflex on 0800 5433630 or contact Stephen by emailing stephen@smilethroughsport.com