Guest blog by Ellen, 1st Colerne Guides
Before any of this had happened, I was simply a young Guide who had decided to earn my Sports badge. Part of this was to get and complete a target (to get county times was mine) in a chosen sport (swimming), and to do a presentation about a professional athlete (I chose local swimmer Stephanie Millward) in that sport. My mum thought that Stephanie’s autobiographical book Paying the Price would help with my presentation; however, she couldn’t get it out from the library as my sister and I had used up all the space on her card, and it was unavailable in the bookshops. Somebody working in one of the shops suggested that she contact Stephanie directly; so she did! They met up at Bath University and, having got the book, my mum talked to Stephanie for a while and mentioned my target. As she is such a lovely person, Stephanie immediately offered to help! So, a few days later, she gave me a coaching session. Afterwards, she even gave me one of her Team GB swimming hats!
Stephanie is a Paralympic swimmer. She was originally on the able-bodied swimming team and, having already swum for Great Britain several times, was going to go to the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Unfortunately MS got in the way. MS stands for Multiple Sclerosis which means `many scars’ and is basically where the body’s immune system attacks the body. There is no known cause or cure. Symptoms include: fatigue, blindness, paralysis and poor balance. Stephanie’s life was very bad for a while when she got MS, but different forms of medication and her family helped her. Gradually, her life improved and she started swimming again, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of her previous life. I feel that this was an incredible act of perseverance and courage.
Stephanie has a long list of achievements – I won’t list them all but they include world records, World champion and of course Paralympic champion. She broke the British record for the 100 meter backstroke aged just 15. At her most recent Paralympics she got gold for the 100 meter backstroke and 4 x 100 meter medley relay, silver for the 200m individual medley, and bronze for the 400m freestyle and 100m freestyle.
Stephanie is a kind, funny, clever and amazingly brave person who wants to do the best she can at everything she does and inspire others to become great swimmers. Even whilst her MS was quite bad, she coached children in swimming. In fact, she met her husband when one of his friends asked her to help him (her husband) with swimming!
Getting ready to go into the pool
Understandably, I was very excited when I found out that Stephanie was going to coach me. The session felt a little strange at first, but I got used to it after a little while. As it was a public session, there were other people in the pool as well as me and Stephanie. It was rather awkward because lots of people were doing widths whilst we were doing lengths for our medleys. Then we started doing widths so they wouldn’t get in our way and they started doing lengths! We both found this rather amusing.
After the swimming session, I was lucky enough to get to have an interview with Stephanie.
Me interviewing Stephanie
It went something like this:
Me: What was Rio like?
Stephanie: It was perfect! There was lots of transport, which was helpful.
Me: What is your favourite memory of Rio?
Stephanie: Winning my first gold in 100m backstroke. I knew I could win it, but I still hurt my hand on the bar.
Me: Do you have any regrets?
Stephanie: Only hurting my hand on the bar!
Me: Do you have any more ambitions?
Stephanie: Getting into the Olympics/Paralympics and getting a gold medal was my main ambition, but I still want to inspire people and children to be better people.
Me: What is your daily routine?
Stephanie: After I get up, I go down to the pool and do some pre-pool exercises (activation exercises or warm up).I then do a 2hr swim before stretching. When I get home, I eat and rest. At 2pm I have a gym session, some more pre-pool exercises, another 2hr swim and ½ an hour of stretching (cool down). After that, I have more food! I swim about 50,000 metres each week and roughly 6-7000 metres every day. Each week I have nine swim sessions and four gym sessions.
Me: What is your favourite kind of cake?
Stephanie: Oooh….Chocolate cake…or maybe all cake. Yes. Cake.
I completely agree with her on this!
She also gave me a few tips swimmer to swimmer on hair care and the best brand of swimming costumes.
I hope you all enjoyed this blog. I myself enjoyed doing it and meeting Stephanie. I would like to thank Stephanie for just being the lovely, kind person she is and for being an amazing inspiration, not just in sport, but for showing that getting an illness such as MS is not the end of your life and that you can still be a thoroughly good person.