STEPHANIE Millward hopes her Paralympic exploits can give encouragement to fellow multiple sclerosis sufferers after leading Wiltshire’s medal charge at London 2012.
The 30-year-old from Corsham claimed three medals in five days, including silvers in the women’s S9 100m backstroke and 400m freestyle and a 4x100m freestyle (34 point) relay bronze.
Meanwhile, Trowbridge Swimming Club’s Aaron Moores, aged 18, marked his Paralympic debut by clinching silver in the S14 100m backstroke.
Millward’s dreams of swimming in the Olympics were dashed when she was diagnosed with MS as a teenager, but she revealed that messages she’d received online had given her a boost during the Games She said: “When I logged on to Facebook on Wednesday morning, I had 8,147 messages.
“I’ve had lots of messages from people with MS and showing those people that getting the illness isn’t the end of the world is what competing is all about.”
“I lost everything unfortunately with the multiple sclerosis and I thought that was the end of life, never mind swimming.
“To get a medal, whether it be bronze, silver or gold is something for everyone who has got multiple sclerosis, something for everyone who has got an illness.
“It proves you can keep going, even through the illness.
“The illness doesn't have to be the end.’’
Millward, who had a best of fourth in the 100m backstroke on her Paralympic debut in Beijing four years ago, clocked 1:11.07 behind Ellie Cole of Australia this time, following up with a European record in the 400m freestyle behind 12-time Paralympic champion Natalie Du Toit, of South Africa.
Moores meanwhile was stunned after recorded a personal best time of 1:04.44 to finish second, beaten only by a world record swim of 1:01.85 from Dutchman Marc Evers.
“I didn’t expect to get a medal in my first Games,’’ the Trowbridge Swimming Club teenager, who has learning disabilities, admitted.
“This is the best thing that has happened in my life.”
It feels amazing and it is something I have been working for my whole life. Now I have finally got it.’’
Both had chances to add to their medal tally last night, Millward – also competing in today’s (34 point) 4x100m medley relay – qualifying second fastest for the 200m individual medley final and Moores in the SB14 100m breaststroke.