New Year’s honors: MBE for Owen Miller after Paralympic gold
Owen Miller won our Paralympic Athlete of the Year award at the 4J Annual Awards following his Paralympic title success – and at the end of 2021 he was confirmed as an MBE recipient!
Owen’s trainer, Steve Doig, was among the shortlisted for our Performance Coach of the Year and Fife AC won our Janice Eaglesham MBE Para Development Club of the Year award.
So it made perfect sense for us to talk to Steve about the training of T20 1500m runner Owen and the impact it was feeling on para-athletics in Scotland..
By Katy Barden
When Fife AC Owen Miller took the lead in the 1500m final at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, his coach Steve doig was always on edge.
âOwen was in the medal position with 150m to go at the 2019 World Championships and he was sixth so it’s always on your mind,â said Steve.
âI wasn’t totally sure (that he would win) before 30 or 40m to go. “
Miller ran a tactically astute race – not always a given for a T20 athlete (defined as an athlete with an intellectual disability) – and moved forward with just over 100m to go. He didn’t look back.
âIt was pretty surreal watching it (at home) because normally I would be at most of these races, and whether you have an impact or not you can shout advice from the sidelines.
âI was jumping up and down at the end. The dog wondered what was going on.
Photo via imagecomms
Doig, a teacher in need of additional support, began working with Miller in 2016 as part of an initiative designed by the president of Disability Sport Fife. Richard Brickley. Miller had previously been coached by a former international athlete Gemma Nicol.
âRichard asked me if there could be some sort of sharing arrangement with Owen’s training so that he could come and access some of our sessions,â he explained.
âHe trained for a few days with us and did a few sessions with Gemma for a few months, but when Gemma’s time was going to be taken with her family, that was the catalyst for Owen to join us full time.
“The idea was that he would be included in the band (mainstream) and ultimately that’s what made the difference for him – it’s not me, it’s the fact that he has a big band who helps him and works around him. “
Coaching an athlete with an intellectual disability, and in Miller’s case also with autism, presents different challenges than coaching an athlete with a physical disability.
The fact that he delivered such a successful performance in Tokyo, however, is testament to the high quality competitive opportunities offered to him, especially through races such as those organized by the British Milers Club (BMC).
âOwen learned (the tactical race) as he went; his race wasn’t always like that, âadded Steve.
âBMC races have had a huge effect on him from the point of view that they are fast, but also because in mainstream events he has to adapt his tactics (and learn to run), and I think that l ‘then help get into the T20 races.’
Photo by Bobby Gavin
While autism spectrum disorder is a lifelong condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests, and behavior, Doig says stimulation has been one of Miller’s biggest challenges:
âHe was doing an 800s one day (at the start) and he ran his 800m, but he ran straight ahead of me and went on and did another lap. It can therefore sometimes be wrong. It’s not a problem when the whole group is there, but there can be problems like that.
âAnd then sometimes when we do sessions with a float recovery, so reps at a set pace and floats at a set pace, they can get a little out of whack if he’s up front.
âThe fact that I had some knowledge of people with autism while working in school helped me, but the group embraced the situation so much and everyone is treating them the same. It would have been difficult if it wasn’t.
Doig believes that Miller, the UK 1,500m T20 record holder with a record of 3: 52.09, can still improve and has the potential to drop below 3:50. This in itself is impressive, but the impact of his gold medal performance in Tokyo is worth more than the numbers on a stopwatch.
âDisability Sport Fife has received more applications to join its sessions after Owen’s victory than ever before,â he said with pride.
âIt’s a great result for parasport in Scotland. “
* This article first appeared in the current edition of PB magazine.
Owen and Derek Rae receive the Janice Eaglesham Para Development Club of the Year award for 2021 on behalf of Fife AC from Richard Brickley (Photo by Bobby Gavin)
training, Owen Miller, para-athletics, Steve Doig, Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games