Eighteen-year-old Guernsey swimmer Miles Munro is the sport’s brightest star on the island. Over the past few months he has won gold medals at the Youth Olympics and European Junior Championships, and swum at the Commonwealth Games.
This autumn, Miles embarks on the next chapter of his life as he leaves for Bath University. We caught up with him before he went to find out about his summer of success, and his hopes for the future.
Miles Munro enjoys being in the water. He also loves to win. Luckily for him, the two go hand in hand. This summer in Nanjing he became the first Guernsey athlete to win a gold medal at the Youth Olympics. Just a couple of months before that he was also at the top of the podium for Great Britain at the European Juniors.
Swimming at that level has meant a busy time for Miles. He’s had to juggle successfully completing his A Levels with swim training and competitions. His training regime has included ten and a half hours in the pool every week along with five hours of gym work for strength and stamina. Fitting in all that has meant honing his time management skills along with his swimming, “It’s pretty tough. It keeps me organised though so I guess it has set me up quite well for moving on to University, I need to be really organised and make sure I get everything done
Miles represented Guernsey at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, earning a place in two semi-finals for the 50 metres freestyle and 50 metres fly. The chance to compete against world-class athletes meant the Games were an amazing time for the Guernsey teenager. “It was an awesome experience, the athletes’ village was just great, I loved being there with all the guys who I train with. The standard of swimming at the Commonwealths is just incredible, you’ve got some names from around the world swimming, and I’d never had that chance to compete against them before so it was really special in that respect.
Although disappointed not to make the finals in the 50 metres freestyle, Miles was pleased overall with his performance. For him, the people watching made a huge difference, “When you compete at a high level competition like that, the crowd is incredible. There were several thousand people in the stadium, which is just unlike anything I’ve ever had before. So you really can use that to your advantage and try to get the most out of yourself. The training is geared to peak at that event, so I would have expected a personal best. The Commonwealth Games weren’t even the peak of Miles’ success this summer.
That happened at the Youth Olympics in August. Swimming for Great Britain, he was part of the 4×100 metres relay team that won gold. “It was awesome just to be there with the other guys, we’d all done a great job. We knew we deserved it. We went into it thinking it was going to be a close one and we weren’t sure we could pull it off. So to actually make it happen was pretty amazing.
“I just really enjoyed the whole competition – the swimming, the standard, the chance to see how other people my age were performing and what they were doing. I was trying to learn off everybody else and do good times myself. Obviously you’re racing other people your own age so it’s kind of unique from that point. At the Commonwealths you always feel like you’re at a disadvantage because everybody’s older than you, but at the Youth Olympics you know that everybody’s on the same level so you fight more for your position.
It gives you a taste of what it’s like to be on the world stage, and that’s a good feeling.
Miles is now heading off, rather aptly, to Bath University where he’ll be studying Engineering. He chose the University because of its impressive sports facilities, and the training programme he will be a part of. But he will certainly be kept busy. Alongside his demanding academic course, Miles will now have to swim for 25 hours a week and put in five hours a week in the gym.
“The facilities in Bath are going to be excellent and they’ve got some really good coaches there. All the guys I’m going to be training with are all at the same level or an even better level at me so I think that is really going to help me and motivate me at training. It really helps to have somebody to chase, which I don’t have in Guernsey at the moment. So I think at Bath I’ll be able to get more out of myself.
Miles knows if he wants to achieve his ambitions he will need to push himself even harder than he already has. But his experiences this summer have certainly inspired him to try. “The gold at Youth Olympics definitely whetted my appetite for more. All those competitions – European Juniors, Commonwealths, Youth Olympics – they’ve all really made me want to train more, train harder, try to get the best out of myself. It gives you a taste of what it’s like to be on the world stage, and that’s a good feeling.
The world stage is where Miles wants to be. He’s currently sixth in Britain in the 50 metres freestyle discipline. If he can push himself into the top two he will earn a place in the Olympic squad for Rio. “Just to get to the Olympics would be incredibly special, definitely the pinnacle of my swimming career. The podium is quite a big push, but just getting to the Games would be absolutely awesome. That’s my long-term dream.
The next step for Miles could be the 2015 World Championships. Until now his best event has been the 50 metre freestyle. But reaching the semi-finals at the Commonwealths in the 50 metre fly entailed a huge personal best, so he’s also looking to push himself even further with that. He’s also hoping the training at Bath will help him to develop in the 100 metre freestyle. Any of those events could turn out to be where he can shine brightest, and he’s open to the opportunity. “I’m really excited, I think I’ve got a lot more to give. It’s been an awesome summer, a whole bunch of really good experiences. I learned a lot and I know where I want to be in a year’s time, and I’m going to train hard to get there.