Merry Christmas!

This will probably now be my last blog before Christmas as I'm pretty sure that I won't have time next week with it being the Christmas week! But, I promise I'll be back with even more to tell you! Tonight, I am going to my A Level Presentation Evening at school, which I don't know whether to be nervous about or look forward too! As I'm sure I've mentioned before, I got 3 B's, with one of the B's being 2 marks off an A; if I had a list of my 'top 10 annoying life moments so far', the fact that I was 2 marks off an A in my English Language A Level would most definitely be up there! At my GCSE Presentation Evening, it worked so I didn't have to go and fetch my certificates off of the stage, so I'm just really hoping that the same can happen again - Ellie + steps + stage + about 150 people watching = not a great combination! Yesterday, I decided that I would attempt to wrap a Christmas present for the first time ever. When I started out, I did ask myself how sensible my idea actually was! But, I actually did it! Okay, I didn't cut in a straight line at all (more like ripped, but shhh!) and you can most definitely spot from a mile off who has wrapped it, but I did it! I then got the 'wrapping bug' and wrapped 6 presents (I sort of needed to confirm to myself that it wasn't just fluke that I had managed all by myself to wrap a present!), which took me 4 hours, but I really don't care! All I can say is thank goodness Santa doesn't have Cerebral Palsy! This week's guest blog is a long one, so I'll stop there. I am so pleased and over the moon to announce that this week's guest blogger is ... Stephen Miller, a Triple Paralympic Champion who has CP! A man named Joe contacted me after seeing the website and Joe knows Stephen, so asked him if he'd do a guest blog for me, so thank you so much Joe and of course, Stephen! Stephen competes in the Club Throw, which is the event that I train in too and I have spoke about in previous blog posts. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and here is Triple Paralympic Champion, Stephen Miller!

'This year was supposed to be a quiet year following last year’s whirlwind. However, with having my wedding to prepare for, that was never going to be the case, throw in a full athletics season and starting a business and we have another whirlwind year – but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Life is for doing, and doing is winning, and winning is errr... standard I guess.

On the 2nd of March my consultant give me the all clear to start throwing again just 6 months after my total hip replacement. One month later, exactly 7 months since my operation, I competed in an open meeting at Kingston upon Thames. Probably the first time I’d competed pain free for 5 years – it felt damn good! I threw unbelievably well getting 29.45m, which was about 3 metres further than I managed in London. It was just a great feeling to be back throwing like myself again. After my return to competing in April I was loving being back and loving training. It was something I could look forward to again, rather than dread because of the pain I knew I would have to endure. Speedflex played a huge part in my speed recovery along with the physiotherapy I received from The Performance Clinic and my Chiropractic treatment at Think Chiropractic. They all helped pick up the pieces from my surgery and ensure I could train as normal.

Speedflex is a new training system with centres now being set up all over the country, they’ve provided essential support by providing sponsorship as well as access to their training facilities in Jesmond. I hadn’t set any targets at the beginning of the year but after starting to throw again my competitive nature kicked in and I set a target of 32 metres for the season. Physically I started dramatically improving as I got to grips with the Speedflex machines and discovered what they were capable of.

When I started training at Speedflex I thought it might be a bit limited and that I would have to supplement the work I did there with weights. However I discovered you can do weight training with the Speedflex machines by setting a weight onto the bar. Basically, without boring you to death, I was able to do weight training without risk of dropping the bar. This was ideal for me because it meant I could be more aggressive with my lifting, I was more symmetrical and I could work in one direction, meaning I could have more load and less risk of injury – brilliant for power training. I supplemented this with medicine ball training and it worked extremely well. In July I jetted off to Lyon for the IPC World Championships, I have good memories of competing in France having won Gold and Silver in Lille in the 2002 World Championships. Back then I set a new world record of 31.32m, now it stands at over 37m – that’s how disability sport progresses. I was hoping for a good performance but due to IPC completely changing the points system I knew a medal would be unlikely. I targeted a top 3 finish in my own class. Lyon endured a heat wave for the duration of the championships, it was definitely the hottest conditions I’ve ever competed in. Two days before my competition a physio gave me ice on the back of my neck to cool down after my session, I think my Cerebral Palsy must’ve reacted badly to it as the next I couldn’t look up or right and left. It’s unfortunate, I still threw a respectable 31.57m but I think the neck problem took a metre or two off my throw. I finished 7th overall and 3rd in my classification. The new seated throw rules come into force next year, meaning that athletes must stay seated at all times during the throwing action. This will make it much fairer for all athletes and means athletes who can stand or walk don’t get an advantage over those who can’t. There are also no more combined events moving forward, so no more battling with the dreaded points system. These are very positive changes and will have long term benefits for disability athletes, as the goalposts shouldn’t be constantly changing. In August I got married, which was one of the best days of my life, then went on honeymoon to Vancouver, Seattle and Vegas. After two week of constant eating and drinking I wasn’t feeling the healthiest upon my return, but you only get one honeymoon, right? I had stupidly entered the CP Sport Nationals which was the weekend after I flew back from Vegas. So I went straight back into training to try and get back into some kind of shape, my first session back at Speedflex was very unpleasant indeed and resulted in me running to be sick straight afterwards, I guess not everything stays in Vegas. I did the competition and just won, but that is as much as I can say about it in a positive fashion. I knew then it was time to start winter training. This will be my first proper winter for two years, I’m looking forward to getting back in peak physical condition and pushing on to a big year with the European Championships coming up in August. I won my 3rd European title in 2012 and I’m looking to make it four in a row in Swansea next year. Winter is where you make the majority of your gains for the following year, so it has to be attacked.

The last bit is about the company that my wife Rachel and I have founded called SMILE Through Sport. It stands for Stephen Miller Inspiring Learning and Enjoyment Through Sport. SMILE for short, is a Community Interest Company (CIC) and therefore is not for profit. It is something we have had on the back burner for a while, and circumstances mean that we finally have the time and resources to get it started. We’re both passionate about sport and the benefits of taking part in sport can have for disabled people, we also know the problems disabled people can have in accessing sporting opportunities. Through SMILE we hope to help create more opportunities for disabled people to take part in sport and raise awareness of disability sport, working very much at grass roots level. We are currently based at Gateshead College, who we are in partnership with, we are helping deliver their Paralympic legacy. Also we have had great support from Speedflex who are sponsoring our website which is launching very soon, as well as Muckle solicitors and Dan Prince Photography who have given tremendous service. SMILE Through Sport will provide a range of services based around the three key themes of Inspiration, Education and Enjoyment. These services include inspirational speaking programmes, disability awareness and sport specific courses, provision of sporting activity and an engagement and inclusion consultancy. The mission of SMILE Through Sport is to: "Provide and encourage high quality disability sports opportunities while inspiring individuals to participate, ultimately improving the perception and culture surrounding disability sport”. We are launching very soon so keep your eyes peeled and if you think we could help you or you could help us, don’t hesitate to get in touch – Stephen@smilethroughsport.com or Rachel@smilethroughsport.com.

Just remains to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year – Aim High and Prosper!'

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