Cody Miller doesn’t resemble a normal gold-medalist breaststroker, but that doesn’t faze him.
Miller has overcome long odds because of his height and his pectus excavatum — a congenial deformity of his chest where it is severely sunken in.
Those obstacles didn’t prove to be enough to keep Miller from achieving his dream of qualifying for the Olympics. At the United States’ Olympic Trials, he finished second in the 100-meter breaststroke, qualifying him for the Olympics.
Miller said he always was aware of how hard it would be for him with his physical limitations, but he said that only pushed him to work harder.
“I’ve always known that in order for me to ultimately make the Olympics, I had to do everything I possibly could to be the best I could be,” Miller said. “I had to try to squeeze every drop of juice out of me that I could.”
Standing at 5-foot-11, Miller is significantly shorter than his competitors.
“Pretty much every year at NCAA’s, I was the shortest guy in the final,” Miller said. “The top guys in my events are well over six foot. I just have to deal with it and overcome it.”
Miller doesn’t use his height or his chest condition as an excuse, as he doesn’t dwell on things he can’t control.
“It basically looks like I have a big hole in my chest,” Miller. “It’s basically a rib deformity. It’s slowly progressed as I grew up and it does affect my breathing. I have anywhere between 15 to 20 percent diminished lung capacity for every breath I take.”
Though Miller has this condition, unlike many other breaststrokers, he doesn’t have any leg deformities, which he said tend to help them be faster.
“A lot of the best breaststrokers in the world have these odd deformities where they have pigeon toes or other things with their lower body that help them swim,” Miller said. “I’ve had specialists at the USOC run tests on me that say I’m one of the most symmetrical swimmers they’ve ever seen. Just by sculpturally looking at me, the fact that I’m a breaststroker is odd.”
Medals might not have been Miller’s motivation early on as just having fun with friends while swimming was.
“The biggest thing for the longest time was my friends,” Miller said. “When I was younger, I pretty much did it because all my friends were swimmers. I like racing and competing, but the reason I kept going to practice was because I had a lot of friends there.”
As Miller grew older, he continued to overcome the long odds and become one of the best swimmers in the country.
During his sophomore year of high school, Miller broke a couple national age group records and made the U.S. Junior Team, swimming in some international meets for them. It was at that point that he realized how good he could be at swimming.
Miller graduated from IU in 2015, he has continued to train with the swim team.
“Now that I am done with school, it’s now much more focused on training and recovery,” Miller said. “I’m able to train at a higher level and compete more, getting a lot of international experience. I treat it like a job but I still enjoy it.”
His international experience includes winning gold as a part of the 400-meter IM relay at the 2015 FINA World Championships along with finishing ninth in the 100-meter breaststroke.
Miller’s job now is to carry over what he learned to Rio.
“Like every athlete, you want to reach the pinnacle of your sport,” Miller said. “The Olympics is that for swimming. Taking that next step and winning a medal would be really cool. I’m positioned well in the world rankings and I definitely feel like I can swim faster.”
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