Andrea Miller’s amazing journey from hurdles to weightlifting
Injuries usually signal the end of an athlete’s career but for Andrea Miller, it was the start of a new athletic endeavour and an attempt at a second Commonwealth Games medal.
Miller won bronze in the 100m hurdles at the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games and has now been named in New Zealand’s 12-strong weightlifting contingent for GC2018.
Miller’s hurdles career came to a devastating end in the lead-up to the London 2012 Olympics. She was recovering from a major back operation and then tore her hamstring while trying to qualify for the Olympic team.
She took up CrossFit for rehab and discovered a natural talent for the sport, in particular the weightlifting component.
Miller calls it her ‘bonus round’.
“I had a whole career and then I got this bonus round of time, where I’ve been able to go to the Oceania [championships] and go to world champs and now go to the Commonwealth Games in my mid-30s,” Miller told GC2018.com.
“I think that’s pretty cool.”
While the contrast between running track and weightlifting seems stark, Miller has no doubt her past life has greatly contributed to her present success.
“Athletics is very much a power sport and then weightlifting, it’s a technical sport as well but it’s a strength sport,” she said.
“I was a gymnast at a young age, then I transitioned into athletics so I think those skills learned from then has allowed me to transition into weightlifting.
“The power aspects help in weightlifting, but it isn’t a direct crossover.
I think the other part of it is your general body awareness, being athletic your whole life, I think it helps you to learn a new sport quickly.
“But the strength hasn’t been easy. You can’t rush that.”
The bonus round hasn’t been a dream run; Miller has had more than her fair share of setbacks.
She narrowly missed out on selection for the Glasgow Games and the Rio Olympics two years later, but Miller takes it all in her stride.
“My old athletics coach would be the first to say that I’m pretty tenacious,” she said.
“I guess deep down I know and believe in what I know I can do, so I’ll keep chipping away until I get where I want to be, or whatever it is I’m striving for.”
Miller’s self-belief is unwavering.
When she speaks about challenges – and there have been many – her reflection is infused with positivity, and it’s clear she’s found the balance so many athletes fail to find.
Miller admits it’s a juggling act, but balance nonetheless.
“I’ve definitely had my fair share of injuries and knock backs and I’ve certainly had more things go wrong than go right, but I’ve also had some incredible highlights,” Miller said.
“I think it’s the balance between reminding yourself about those highs but then also keeping your eye on what it is you want to achieve.
“But then at the same time, I genuinely love doing it. It’s hard and sometimes you question it but I absolutely wouldn’t change it, I love the training and I love competing.
“I think that part of it is also an essential element because otherwise you’d probably feel like you’re missing out, dedicating all that time, but I don’t’ see it that way because it’s what I choose to do. I choose to direct my energy there.”
Finding the balance wasn’t an easy discovery and it’s one of the many things that have changed since her hurdling days.
Now based on the Gold Coast, Miller runs a CrossFit gym alongside her Australian husband and coach, teaches at Griffith University and is studying for a PhD.
“My approach to [weightlifting] is a bit different,” she said.
When I was a track athlete I did only work part time to allow me to compete at a high level but with the weightlifting I’ve had to work full time.
“Maybe just being a bit older I can look at it and go, ‘I just need to prioritise this today.’ I think I’m a bit more relaxed about it.”
Miller works full time teaching physiotherapy and organising clinic placements for physio students at Griffith University.
Her passion for her research and career has helped her immensely during the down times in her career.
“I love, love, love working [at Griffith] and I love being a physio. I’m very proud of my profession,” she said.
“When I haven’t gone as well as I’d hoped, I have always had that other element to my life in terms of my research and my work. So that balance has probably put me in a good position in terms of keeping me level.”
In April, the Aussies could very well try to claim Miller as their own.
And having lived on the Gold Coast for the past eight years, Miller considers GC2018 a home Games.
“I’m telling everyone I’ve got a home Games,” Miller laughed.
“It’s really exciting. I think everyone in the crowd who I’ll have there is going to be Australian, it’s kind of a running joke between my friends that they’re going to have to wear black and white.”
While the Gold Coast is her adopted hometown, Miller warns that New Zealand will be bringing their absolute best to the Games.
The team of 12 is the equal largest team they’ve brought to a Commonwealth Games – they had 12 in Glasgow too – and includes reigning champions, previous medallists, and incredibly, two athletes who have previously competed at a Games in different sports.
“We’re a pretty strong team,” she said.
“I think we will probably have one of the strongest medal counts we’ve ever had in weightlifting.
“I know our high performance director will be looking for some big results so hopefully we can deliver.”
You could see the New Zealand weightlifters in action at GC2018 with tickets still available!
New Zealand Weightlifting team heading to GC2018 includes: