Shannon Miller is the most decorated American gymnast. Over the course of her thirteen-year career as a
gymnast, Miller won fifty-nine international medals and forty-nine national medals. Over half of these medals were gold. She competed in two Olympics, in 1992 and 1996, and won a total of seven Olympic medals—two gold, two silver, and three bronze. She was a member of the "Magnificent Seven" women's gymnastics team that won the first team gold in gymnastics for the United States in 1996. Miller is also the only American to win the World Championships for two consecutive years, in 1993 and 1994. Miller retired from gymnastics in 2001 and has become an author and a motivational speaker.
An Energetic Child
Shannon Lee Miller was born on March 10, 1977 in Rolla, Missouri. She was the second of three children born to Ron Miller, a college physics professor, and Claudia Miller, a bank executive. When Miller was four months old, her family moved to Edmond, Oklahoma where her father accepted a job at the University of Central Oklahoma. Around the same time Miller's pediatrician noticed a problem with the development of her legs - they seemed to be turning in rather than growing straight. To correct the problem, an orthopedic surgeon recommended that Miller wear leg braces for a year. Her parents and doctors thought that this problem might delay her learning how to crawl and walk, but Miller developed normally.
As a young child Miller looked up to her older sister, Tessa, and wanted to do everything that she did. At age four Miller started taking ballet lessons because her sister had. Within a year both girls had become bored with dancing and they set their sights on gymnastics. In 1982 they asked for a trampoline for Christmas. Their parents reluctantly bought them one, and the girls were thrilled. Their parents, however, were frightened by some of the flips the girls were doing. They suggested that the girls take gymnastics lessons so that they would not hurt themselves on the trampoline at home. The sisters started taking lessons once a week. The instructor, Jerry Clavier, noticed potential in the girls and asked them to come for lessons one hour a day, five days a week. Older sister, Tessa, was not interested in the extra commitment and she decided to take art lessons instead. However, Shannon was up to the challenge.
|1977||Born March 10, 1977 in Rolla, Missouri|
|1977||Moves with family to Edmond, Oklahoma|
|1977||Wears braces to straighten legs|
|1981||Begins ballet lessons|
|1982||Begins gymnastics lessons|
|1984||Passes United States Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs tests|
|1985||Travels to Houston to Bela Karolyi's gymnastics camp|
|1986||Travels to Soviet Union for gymnastics camp|
|1986||Begins training with Steve Nunno|
|1988||Begins competing internationally|
|1989||Wins first place for uneven bars and third place for all-around at Junior National Championships|
|1990||Begins competing at senior level|
|1992||Wins five medals at Olympic Games|
|1993-94||Wins all-around gold at World Championships|
|1994||Graduated with honors from Edmond North High School|
|1995||Begins college at the University of Oklahoma|
|1996||Wins team and individual gold at the Olympic Games|
|1998||Writes motivational book|
|1999||Marries Chris Phillips|
|2000||Fails to make U.S. Olympic team|
|2001||Retires from gymnastics|
|2002||Works as a gymnastics instructor and motivational speaker|
Miller steadily increased her time at the gym and she progressed through the higher levels of gymnastics classes, despite her young age and small size. By the time she was seven years old, Coach Clavier had her preparing for the United States Association of Independent Gymnastics Clubs (USAIGC) testing program. Miller and five other girls from the gym passed the rigorous tests. As a reward, the team traveled to Houston to attend a training camp held by the legendary gymnastics coach, Bela Karolyi . When Miller was barely nine years old she had an opportunity to travel with an American and Canadian delegation to the Soviet Union for a gymnastics camp. Miller was often frustrated by her inability to complete the difficult tasks set forth by the Soviet coaches, but at the same time she was impressed by the skills of their gymnasts and she was determined to became as good as they were.
When Miller returned to Oklahoma she realized that she would have to change coaches in order to compete against the elite gymnasts. She started training with Steve Nunno, who had also been part of the delegation that traveled to the Soviet Union, at his Dynamo Gymnastics program in Norman, Oklahoma. Nunno was frustrated by how easily Miller cried when she was not performing her best, but he also recognized that she was extremely talented and dedicated. "The most important characteristic that she has is her work ethic," Nunno told Krista Quiner in Shannon Miller America's Most Decorated Gymnast. "I mean, she is just a meticulous worker, that everything that she does, she does to perfection and she does over and over and over to get it prefect without any qualms about it."
At the age of ten Miller started competing in meets and only a year later she was winning medals. In 1988 she finished second in the all-around and third in the balance beam at the Junior Pan American Games in Ponce, Puerto Rico. A year later she finished sixth in the all-around competition at the International Junior Gymnastics Competition in Yokohama, Japan. That same year she won first place for the uneven bars and third place for the all-around competition at the United States Olympic Festival held in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
In 1990 Miller qualified for the senior United States National Team at the age of only thirteen. In her first United States Gymnastics Championship she finished eighth in the all-around. In 1991 she was part of the United States team that competed in the World Gymnastics Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana. She finished fourth in the all-around, while teammate Kim Zmeskal became the first American to win an all-around world championship. Miller also helped the United States win a silver medal for the team competition and she tied for second place on the uneven bars.
Awards and Accomplishments
|1989||First place uneven bars and third place all-around, Junior National Championships|
|1990||First place all-around, vault, balance beam, and floor exercise, and second place uneven bars, Catania Cup|
|1991||First place balance beam and third place vault, United States Gymnastics Championships|
|1991||Second place team and uneven bars, World Gymnastics Championships|
|1992||First place all-around, United States Olympic Trials|
|1992||Second place all-around and balance beam, third place team, uneven bars, and floor exercise, Olympic Games|
|1992||Named Oklahoma Ambassador of Goodwill|
|1992||Named Edmond Citizen of the Year|
|1992||First female recipient of the Steve Reeves Award by the New York Downtown Athletic Club|
|1992||Received Jim Thorpe Award by the Oklahoma Amateur Athletic Union|
|1992||James E. Sullivan Award nominee by the Amateur Athletic Union|
|1993||First place team, all-around, vault, balance beam, and floor exercise, and second place uneven bars, United States Olympic Festival|
|1993||First place all-around, vault, uneven bars, and floor exercise, McDonald's American Cup|
|1993||First place all-around, uneven bars, and floor exercise, World Gymnastics Championships|
|1993||James E. Sullivan Award nominee by the Amateur Athletic Union|
|1993||Received Governor's Youth Award by the State of Oklahoma|
|1993||Named Female Athlete of the Year by the National March of Dimes|
|1993||Received Presidential medallion by USA Gymnastics|
|1994||First place all-around and balance beam, World Gymnastics Championships|
|1994||First place balance beam and floor exercise, second place all-around, vault and uneven bars, Goodwill Games|
|1994||James E. Sullivan Award nominee by the Amateur Athletic Union|
|1994||Received Dial Award for National High School Athlete/Scholar|
|1994||Named Athlete of the Year by the USA Gymnastics Congress|
|1994||Received Henry P. Iba Citizen Athlete Award|
|1994||Team Xerox Olympian|
|1994||Received Master of Sport Award|
|1994||Received Jim Thorpe Award by the Oklahoma Amateur Athletic Union|
|1995||James E. Sullivan Award nominee by the Amateur Athletic Union|
|1996||First place team and balance beam, Olympic Games|
|1996||James E. Sullivan Award nominee by the Amateur Athletic Union|
|1997||Co-Grand Marshal of the Rose Bowl Parade with Carl Lewis|
|1997||First place all-around, second place team, World University Games|
|2000||First place vault, Mississauga Gymnastics Challenge|
|2000||Second place uneven bars, John Hancock United States Gymnastics Championships|
|2002||Inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame|
Where Is She Now?
Although Miller retired from gymnastics in 2001, she still remains involved in the sport. She works with children of all ages at summer gymnastics camps and also teaches specialized balance beam clinics. She has toured in exhibition performances and has served as a television sports analyst for gymnastics competitions. Miller also travels extensively as a motivational speaker, lecturing about how to set goals in life and how to overcome obstacles. In 1998 she also wrote a book with Nancy Ann Richardson called Winning Every Day: Gold Medal Advice for a Happy, Healthy Life! Miller is also finishing her Bachelor's degree in marketing and entrepreneurship. Additionally, she dedicates considerable time to charity work, particularly as a spokesperson for the Children's Miracle Network and the Special Olympics, as well as for muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer's disease, Drug Free Youth, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and the Pediatric AIDS Foundation.
Miller's accomplishments as a gymnast are even more amazing given the numerous injuries she has battled throughout her career. In 1992 when she was preparing for the Olympics, Miller dislocated her elbow. She underwent surgery and returned to competition within a month. She finished first in the all-around competition at the Olympic trials. At the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, Miller captured five medals. She won a bronze medal for the team competition, uneven bars, and floor exercise, and a silver medal for the balance beam and the uneven bars. During much of her early competitions Miller was in the shadow of America's best gymnast, Kim Zmeskal. The 1992 Olympics, however, were a turning point for Miller. She finished second in the all-around competition, while Zmeskal only finished tenth because of a fall on the uneven bars. It was finally Shannon's time for the spotlight. Miller had the best finish for an American woman gymnast in a non-boycotted Olympics. Although American Mary Lou Retton won gold for the all-around in 1984, the Soviets did not participate in those games and they were usually the toughest competition.
Miller continued to dominate women's gymnastics after the Olympics. In 1993 she won the United States championships for the all-around, uneven bars, and floor exercise. She also won gold medals for the all-around, uneven bars, and floor exercise and the World Gymnastics Championships. She became only the second American to become a World Champion. In 1994 Miller repeated her gold medal for the all-around and also won a gold for the balance beam at the World Championships. She became the only American to win consecutive World Championships.
In 1995 Miller was eighteen years old and she was already the most decorated American gymnast. She faced a difficult decision of whether to retire from gymnastics or continue training for the next Olympics. She had graduated from Edmond North High School in 1994 and she was attending college at the University of Oklahoma. She not only had trouble finding the motivation to train, but she also had to adjust to her more mature body. She also had more injuries to overcome, particularly an ankle injury that hampered her performance at the World Championships.
Member of the "Magnificent Seven"
Miller decided to stick with gymnastics for another try at the Olympics. She won first place in the all-around at the United States National Championships, but she injured her wrist in the competition. She had to sit out of the Olympic trials, but her scores at the national championships were enough to earn her a spot on the Olympic team. The Olympic team consisted of Miller, Amanda Borden, Amy Chow, Dominique Dawes , Dominique Moceanu, Jaycie Phelps, and Kerri Strug . They were nicknamed the "Magnificent Seven" because they were the first American women's team that stood a real chance of capturing the team gold medal for the first time in history. The team lived up to this expectation and won the team gold in dramatic fashion. Miller also became the first American gymnast to win a gold medal for the balance beam, bringing her total number of Olympic medals to seven.
Miller competed occasionally after the 1996 Olympics. In 1997 she won first place in the all-around at the World University Games. She then took a few years off from competitive gymnastics to focus on her education and her personal life. In 1999 she married Chris Phillips, an ophthalmology student from Oklahoma. In 2000 Miller tried to make a comeback in gymnastics to compete at the 2000 Olympics at the age of 23. She finished second on the uneven bars at the United States Gymnastics Championships. However, she did not qualify for the Olympic team. Miller officially retired from the sport in December of 2001. She remains the most accomplished American gymnast of all time with seven Olympic medals, eight World Championships medals, and numerous other national and international medals. Even more surprisingly, Miller excelled in her sport while also earning an "A" average in school and maintaining a healthy and balanced family life.
SELECTED WRITINGS BY MILLER:
(With Nancy Ann Richardson) Winning Every Day: Gold Medal Advice for a Happy, Healthy Life!, Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1998.
Cohen, Joel. Superstars of Women's Gymnastics. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1997.
Great Women in Sports. Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1996.
Green, Septima. Top 10 Women Gymnasts. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc., 1999.
Kleinbaum, Nancy H. The Magnificent Seven. New York: Bantam Books, 1996.
Miller, Claudia. Shannon Miller, My Child, My Hero. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999.
Quiner, Krista. Shannon Miller America's Most Decorated Gymnast. NJ: Bradford Book Company, 1997.
Sports Stars, Series 1-4. U•X•L, 1194-1998.
Gillis, Stephanie. "Diary of a Champion." Teen Magazine (September 2000): 48.
Parrish, Paula. "Two of Magnificent Seven are Sydney Bound." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service (August 20, 2000).
"Shannon Miller: All-Star Attitude." Teen Magazine (April 1993): 78-79.
"Shannon Miller & Chris Phillips." People (July 5, 1999): 80.
Starr, Mark. "Hands Together, Feet Apart: Not Bubbly, Just Incredibly Focused." Newsweek (June 10, 1996): 80.
Swift, E.M. "Growing Pains." Sports Illustrated (March >13, 1995): 40-41.
Shannon Miller. http://shannonmiller.com (January 24, 2003).
"Shannon Miller." Distinguished Women of Past and Present. http://www.distinguishedwomen.com/biographies/millersh.html (January 24, 2003).
The Shannon Miller-Phillips Dedication Page. http://webinspiring.net/shannon/smaddy.htm (January 24, 2003).
USA Gymnastics Official Biography: Shannon Miller. http://www.usa-gymnastics.org/athletes/bios/m/smiller.html (January 14, 2003).
Sketch by Janet P. Stamatel
"Miller, Shannon." Notable Sports Figures. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 21, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/sports/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/miller-shannon
"Miller, Shannon." Notable Sports Figures. . Retrieved August 21, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/sports/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/miller-shannon
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