Sorry for posting the above video again but it’s the best contribution I made to the London 2012 Paralympic Games so I have to milk it for all its worth.
Well what can I say about that then? Quite a lot actually and I will attempt to bore you half to death in the next minute or so that it takes you to skim down this blog post (it’s a long one so hang in there). It’s a week since I took part in the heroes parade and I can safely say it was the most astonishing thing I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve done my fair share of victory parades – in 2004 I shared a float with the soon to be Dame Kelly Holmes and I also had some bling to show off. It was nothing compared to last Monday though, the vast crowds stretched as far back as you could see and the energy from the crowd was immense. Everyone just wanted to show how proud they were of this Great British team that competed so well in their home games.
In the morning I was wondering if I’d made the right decision to stay and take part in the parade, feeling a bit fraudulent at my lack of personal glory to show off and celebrate, but the crowd cheered whether you showed them something shiny or not. The positivity around London holding such a successful games was infectious and to be part of that special moment as we went through Trafalgar Square is something that will stay with me for life – I don’t think we’ll see such scenes again.
It’s been over 2 weeks since I entered the Olympic stadium and still the thought of it makes me sick. Normally after even the slightest below par performance I tear myself to bits in the days and weeks to come, but I haven’t done that this time. I think I’m too heartbroken this time, it’s a weird empty feeling that took over as soon as I left the cage that fateful Friday morning. I normally rise to a challenge, to the big day but for the first time I ducked out miserably when it meant so much to me, and there was nothing I or anyone else could do about it.
Did I let the occasion get to me? Did the noise from the crowd effect me? Did I want it too much? Probably yes, but the reality is that I have been struggling for a long time and haven’t been truly happy with myself since 2010 in terms of training and how I felt in my throwing. The dream was to compete at the London 2012 Paralympic Games and to be competitive, broken hip or not. We achieved it and I have never worked harder up to any other championship, I was probably in the best physical shape of my life but my body wouldn’t allow me to get near my potential – that is more frustrating than you can ever imagine and I’ve had to deal with that frustration for the best part of 3 years.
I have no regrets, people might now say I should’ve had the hip replacement 2 years ago. I made the decision to hold off for London, knowing the pain I would have to go through and knowing I would probably not be able to throw to my true potential. I qualified for the team legitimately, following up my world championship bronze performance with two 30+ metre performances this year and also winning the European Championships. For the first time though I went into a major championships a bit behind and knowing I needed to find something to get amongst the medals. I was ranked 5th going into the competition and was targeting 32-33 metres to win a medal, I had thrown this far in training albeit not consistently in the week leading up. In the end I would have needed to put 32cm on my personal best to get bronze (36.32m) and I know I wasn’t fit enough to do that.
The class 51s took everyone by surprise, I think they all threw PBs or SBs and I got beat on distance by the gold and silver medallists, which is ridiculous. When the first athlete to throw broke the World Record with his first throw I said ‘Shit, here we go’. The 51 class hasn’t progressed for many years so I guess they were due a day like that. As it turned out 32.50 metres would’ve put me 4th and my season’s best would’ve put me 7th (30.71m). Little consolation then. With 9 class 32s and 8 class 51s in the competition I’ll never understand why it was combined but hopefully it will be separated in future as there are now plenty of athletes in each class on the rankings.
I don’t think I will ever get over my performance of 26.70m, my worst performance this year (and that includes throwing into a gale at Gateshead) – it was an absolute shocker of monumental terms, I really can’t say anything positive about it apart from I did get two throws measured at exactly the same distance – impressive! I’ve given up trying to explain it, I don’t think we’ll ever know what really happened, I felt fine in warm up if a bit nervous. It will have to go down as a freak bad day, I haven’t had many in 17 years of competing at the highest level, just sods law it happened in London. I hate saying this because its so cliché but I felt so sorry for my long suffering coach (mam) who put so much time and effort into getting me to London and had me throwing really well in Portugal, I was so sad I didn’t put in a performance that did justice to all the hard work and heart ache. Same goes to my fiancé Rachel who did a sterling job organising tickets and the Team Miller t-shirts.
Then in my deepest sorrow after my competition I experienced my most special moment of any Paralympic Games, I met the majority of Team Miller in Olympic Park along with hundreds of random punters who encircled me and chanted ‘There’s only one Stephen Miller’, I was almost embarrassed but the next two hours of taking pictures and chatting to everyone, I realised how excited they were to be at the Paralympics and that they would never have had the experience had I been sitting at home watching it on TV. Thank you to everyone who was part of team miller, you all made me feel so humble – there was one member missing on the day, my dad, who if we could send stuff up-stairs would’ve been wearing a Team Miller t-shirt, moaning about how uncomfortable it was and shouting ‘What the **** is he playing at!’ at me. My dad was a major inspiration for me to continue competing with my hip problem, I know how much pain he went through as he battled his bowel cancer and I knew if he could be that strong and dignified in the face of death I could cope with some pain in my left hip.
There are lots of people and organisations who have been integral to my achievements to date and especially to my ability to compete this year. UK Sport and UK Athletics have funded me since 2000 and have been brilliant in supporting me and my coach up to London 2012. Grainger PLC have sponsored me for two years and provided great support when Rach and I moved into our bungalow, they also made up a substantial part of Team Miller. Mannatech have provided my sport nutrition supplements since 2009 and have made a big difference in keeping me healthy. Meyra supplied me with a new electric wheelchair and sports clothing prior to London 2012 and continue to give great support. Sainsbury’s were the fantastic sponsor of the Paralympic Games and I’m proud to be one of their ambassadors. The Unit Gym through the Outdoor Fitness Company have helped me with personal training since last year and have given me a new lease of life with S&C. BVAL Arts & Leisure continue to give me full access to their facilities to supplement my training. Through the EIS I receive great medical support from my Physio Penny Macutkiewics (The Perf0rmance Clinic), my soft tissue therapist Amy Woolstenholmes and my doctor Graeme Wilkes who has had the glorious task of injecting me every 3 months for the last 3 years. Also a huge shout out to my chiropractor Andy Maier (Think Chiropractic) who has been treating me for the last five years. Finally thanks to Tharsus who helped develop a new throwing frame that didn’t quite work out for London but might be the bomb when I get my new hip.
London was my first major championship outside the medals in my whole career, it would be easy to be bitter and twisted about the whole thing but I remain philosophical and look to the positives. This was the best Paralympics in history and propelled Paralympic sport to a level we could only imagined beforehand, to be a part of that and to be the Male Athletics Team Captain was an honour I cannot put into words. To lead such a young team that did so well made me feel very proud. We now must maintain the excitement and interest around Paralympic sport throughout the next four years and not let it die out until Rio. I still have many issues with classification in athletics and the ethos around seated throws but that can wait for another blog. For now I’m preparing for my total hip replacement which I’m having on the 4th of October, then I start the long journey back to fitness. Being pain free for the first time in just about 6 years will make everything easy to take on though I’m sure.