Rio-wind: Millward's moment arrives

1 Sep 2020

With the countdown to the rescheduled Paralympics in Tokyo now down to less than a year, we're taking a look back at some of the golden highlights and medal moments of past Games...

Britain won 47 medals in the pool at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the highest yield of any sport as the ParalympicsGB team celebrated returning from Brazil with 147 medals in total.

In this Paralympic Rio-wind, we revisit Stephanie Millward's journey to the top step of the podium.

The road to Rio

In her early teens, Stephanie Millward was starting to make a splash in the swimming world and verging on making the British senior team. However, her dream of qualifying for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games was rocked when, aged 17,  Millward was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

On returning to swimming, Stephanie qualified for the Beijing Paralympics in 2008, reaching three finals in the S9 classification in her maiden senior international competition. The following four years brought medal successes at world and European competition, and Millward’s second outing at a Paralympics at London 2012 saw the Team Bath swimmer reach the podium on no fewer than five occasions. 

Four of the medals were silver, in the S9 400m Freestyle, S9 100m Backstroke, SM9 200m Individual Medley and the 34pt 4x100m Medley Relay, with a bronze coming in the 34pt 4x100m Freestyle Relay.

Shortly ahead of the 2016 Games, Millward was then reclassified as an S8 athlete by World Para Swimming.

Steph Millward 2012 getty
Stephanie Millward won five medals at London 2012

Rio-lising a dream

After opening her Rio account with bronze medals in the S8 100m and 400m Freestyle contests, Millward was certainly enjoying her third Games experience, commenting:

"Everyone is swimming really well in a really fast pool. It's been exciting because I've got a whole new set of competitors. I've got a few more races and I'm really excited for them."

Next up was the S8 100m Backstroke, a race certainly considered to be among Millward's strongest events - and the then-34-year-old showed her intentions by clocking a Paralympic record in the heats to draw lane four for the evening showdown.

Described by the commentators as a race in which any of the eight finalists had a realistic chance of grabbing a medal, there looked no doubt by the first turn of the finale that Stephanie Millward was out to ensure that previously elusive gold would be hers. Stretching away down the final 25m, she came in to the wall four seconds faster than her nearest rival, shaving further time off the Paralympic record in a memorable victory. 

After the race, the Corsham athlete dedicated her win to those who play the National Lottery and help fund elite sport in the UK. 

“It’s given me the opportunity to be a Paralympic swimmer and to win that gold, so to everybody, thank you very much.

“Going onto the podium will be amazing and it’s all because of everybody in the general public, everyone in the UK, everyone around the world, it’s amazing, thank you so much for all your help.”

A second Paralympic title and world record in the 34pt 4x100m Medley Relay followed, before an individual silver in the SM8 200m Individual Medley rounded out Millward's unforgettable Games in Brazil, with her total Paralympic medal collection rising to 10. 

“I’m absolutely over the moon. I’ve got two golds, a silver and two bronzes and I’ve loved these Games, they have been fantastic.”

Keep an eye on the British Swimming website and social channels for more memorable moments from previous Games, as we celebrate the period over which the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics were initially set to take place.