STEPHANIE Millward enjoyed double success at the Paralympic Games last night – claiming 400m freestyle silver and winning the respect of legendary South African swimmer Natalie Du Toit in the process.
Millward, who had already picked up 100m backstroke silver and 4x100m freestyle bronze on her medal trawl through the Aquatics Centre, shattered the European record en-route to her third podium finish in London.
Stopping the clock in 4.40.01 seconds the 30-year-old was forced to set a new lifetime best to hold off the challenge of America’s Ellie Cole but she was powerless to prevent Du Toit taking a 12th Games gold of her career. It’s not the first time the Corsham swimmer has come up against the South African sensation but after tailing her rival down the home straight, Millward insisted she’d earned the respect of one of the greatest Paralympic athletes of all time. “I knew I had a very good back end so if after 200m Ellie Cole was up with me I knew I could start to speed it up from there and see if I could catch her,” she said. “I got down there and touched and Natalie came up to me and said ‘well done Stephanie’ and she never does that so that was nice.
“It depends how you think of it, I used her for my own good, I used her for my pacing so that was a good thing. “I knew she was going to go very fast so I knew she was going to be on 4.30 so if I could be in a body length of her then I was in a good place.
“I saw that as a positive rather than a negative. Yes (I see it as a sign of respect) definitely she’s such a lovely, lovely person and you can’t put her down. “She’s a lovely, stunning person and the kindest person you’ll ever meet. You want to hate her because she wins so many medals but you can’t because she’s just so nice.”
Millward has two more chances to add to her trophy cabinet in the 200m medley tomorrow and the medley relay but admits the pressure is off.
“I’ve still got two more races to go, I’ve only just learned how to do breaststroke for the medley so that should be interesting,” she added. “I was kind of avoiding it but I just didn’t really want to do it and then someone said ‘you’re very good at three of the four events, why don’t you try it?’ “I said to Billy Pye my coach, who is a breaststroke coach, ‘how long would it take you to teach me breaststroke’ and he said ‘minutes’ so I knew I had to try medley.”