Paralympic Games heroine Stephanie Millward thinks Great Britain’s exploits at London 2012 have bridged the gap between disabled and able-bodied athletes.
The 30-year-old Corsham swim star claimed five medals, four silver and one bronze, in the water at the London Aquatics Centre – more podium finishes than any other British athlete.
Millward was one of around 800 British Olympic and Paralympic athletes honoured for their exploits in Monday’s celebration parade in London and she is certain that opinions of disabled athletes have been changed for the better after London 2012.
“It was absolutely amazing and I think that the Paralympics has scrubbed out that line that there’s always been between disabled and able-bodied athletes,” said Millward, who is a multiple sclerosis sufferer.
“All of the Paralympic and Olympic athletes were mixing and I think that the Games have stopped people looking at disabled athletes as just people with illnesses or disadvantages.
“I’ve already had so many messages from people saying that I’ve inspired them to get back in the pool or back on a horse and that’s just amazing. That’s always been the main goal and I’m so glad.”
Millward won silver in the S9 100m backstroke, S9 400m freestyle, and bronze in the 4x100m freestyle relay early last week.
She rounded off her Games by claiming silver in the SM9 200m individual medley, then joining Britain’s 4x100m medley relay quartet alongside Heather Frederiksen, Claire Cashmore and Louise Watkin, the world record holders being just edged into silver by Australia.
After four years training in Swansea, Millward is back in Corsham and plotting a permanent move back to the South West as she targets more medal success in the lead up to the next Paralympic Games in Rio, in 2016.
“For me, my life started again when I was 18, so I missed out when all of my friends were going out and things like that. That means that I still feel young and I want to enjoy life,” said the five-time medallist.
“I wasn’t disappointed not to get a gold medal because I’ve been told that the silver medals would actually be worth more if I sold them off!
“But there’ll be plenty of opportunities to try and win golds – there’s the World Championships next year (in Canada) and then the Commonwealth Games, the Europeans and the next Paralympics.
“I’m also hoping to get around to finishing writing my book soon.”
She said: “Rio is very much on my radar. I’ve done four years since Beijing and I’ve managed to come away with five medals, just think what I might be capable of with another four years behind me.’’