Feature: Strongman Ian Miller desperate for USA defence of crown

Veteran athlete Ian Miller with just some of his medals he has won at various 2014 competitions

Veteran athlete Ian Miller with just some of his medals he has won at various 2014 competitions - Credit: Archant

Some people say age is just a number. Not for the well-known toys distributor who rejected a world-class strongman because he was over the age of 80, it isn’t.

Ian Miller smiles as he recalls the incident, but it no doubt still rankles with the veteran athlete. It may turn out to be a costly decision come the autumn. More on that later.

Eight years prior to that, when the Masters Championship was again in Scotland, Miller had finished fourth but eclipsed most in age by 20 years due to the parameters of the competition.

Three years later, he finished second in the same demographic, so close to gazumping his younger challengers.

Last September, Miller, originally from the Isle of Raasay in the Inner Hebrides, but now of Welwyn, was crowned the first-ever World Masters Champion for the over 80 category at the Scottish Highland Games in Inverness.

Determined to get his hands on the Superbowl-style ring and Scottish Crystal bowl handed out to all winners of their disciplines, Miller pulled out all the stops in last year’s inaugural over-80s four-day event.

Miller said: “I trained all year. I didn’t want to come away a loser again.

Most Read

“There were eight events and I won six and finished second in two and I was over the moon. I had beaten 13 strong competitors. All of them had either been World, European or National champions before so I wasn’t throwing against amateurs.

“All the Americans that had come over for the event said to me ‘what are you on?’ because they couldn’t believe how well I had done.

“While they were out drinking at the pub and sight-seeing the nights before the events, I decided to avoid that and just focus on my goal of winning and I managed it.”

The 81-year-old insists on going to find his prized bowl and ring from, no doubt, a treasure trove of winners medals and accolades in a room at the back of his house.

Don’t be fooled by his age. Miller is a warrior in battle. Mel Gibson without the war paint. Up until February 2015, he had won an astronomical 243 gold medals in various throwing events since 1995.

From throwing the 56lb hammer for gold in Dunboyne, Scotland to winning a weight decathlon in Derby, Miller has conquered most.

Being crowned world champion 43 times and European champion on 15 occasions over many events in less than 13 years, makes him an exceptional athlete.

Lying on a table by the front door is a gold medal. Miller has the things coming out of his ears.

On his return, Miller is clutching the bowl and a ring that would make Don King blush.

“This is pure Scottish Crystal,” he boasts.

“They only made nine of these ever and I am lucky enough to have one.”

Miller may have worked extremely hard to win one but the question is, can he retain it? The obstacle is less about his opponents, and more about whether he can actually get to this year’s event.

For the competition is set to be staged in St Louis, Missouri in the final week of September.

Having paid his $75 competition entrance fee, the Welwyn man is guaranteed a spot but does not believe he can afford the extra £1000 plus expense for flights and accomodation, in order to defend his crown.

With a deadline of May, Miller is up against it to find the cash before having to forfeit his title. Having applied for part-time jobs such as a bus driver and a shop assistant, only to be told he is too old, he is running out of options and time.

He said: “I want to get over to the USA because I reckon I can win the competition again.

“It was amazing winning it in Scotland but to retain it would be tremendous.

“I was probably fighting a losing battle when applying for the jobs.

“I rang up for the part-time driving job and they immediately asked how old I was and when I said I was 80, they seemed sceptical.

“I told them I lift heavy weights but they still said ‘no, sorry’. If you try to protest you’re not going to get the job anyway so it is very difficult and has left me with very few options now.

“If my trip to the USA is not to be though, it’s not to be.”

While his participation is still in the balance, Miller continues to train down at Gosling Sports Park everyday.

Also as one of the directors of the WGC sporting charity, based down at Stanborough, Miller could create a fund-raising event down at the club but he is yet to think of ideas.

If Miller is not to travel State-side, he will have no regrets from an incredible career of throwing, that could have been cut short some 40 years ago.

While in the army, he broke his back when his parachute did not open in a training exercise in Weston-on-the-Green in Oxfordshire.

He said: “I landed on my coccyx, coming down with a great thump.

“They rushed me to the hospital which was 10 miles away and in the first few days, they thought I may not ever walk again.

“Luckily they did a great job for me and gave me great advice and I used karate exercises to get back to full health.

“I actually learnt enough to become a black belt so something did come out of my accident. I was so grateful to the professionals who helped me back to how I was because my injuries could have been more severe.”

As well as his Gosling Sports Park work, he is also a voluntary coach at Herts Phoenix, training 11-16 year olds the art of the throwing events.

A fantastic opportunity to hear from such a successful athlete.

Miller always stresses the importance of technique and listening as the things that will help you most in being the best you can.

From sitting in the fields as a 12-year-old listening to his uncle Ronald McDonald (and no, it’s not the fast-food clown before your mind starts wandering) give him the inspiration to become a thrower, Miller has been the embodiment of that.

With no signs of retirement from the events, Miller may still battle on to become World Masters champion of the Highland Games once more despite not making it to this year.

There’s life in the old dog yet.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter