Shannon Lee Miller (born March 10, 1977) is a former artistic gymnast from Edmond, Oklahoma. She is the most decorated gymnast in U.S. History, and considered one of the greatest gymnasts the United States has ever produced. Miller was the 1993 and 1994 World All-Around Champion, the 1996 Olympics balance beam gold medalist, the 1995 Pan Am Games all-around champion, and a member of the gold medal-winning Magnificent 7 team at the Atlanta Olympics. The winner of a combined total of 16 World Championships and Olympic medals between 1991 and 1996, Miller ranks as the most decorated gymnast, male or female, in U.S. history. Miller was also the most successful American athlete, by medal count, at the 1992 Barcelona Games, winning 5 altogether.
Miller was born in Rolla, Missouri, but she and her family moved to Edmond, Oklahoma when she was only six months old. Miller began gymnastics at age five, and four years later, she and her mother traveled to Moscow, Russia to participate in a gymnastics camp. As a twelve year old, she finished an impressive third at the 1989 Olympic Festival — a competition designed to showcase up-and-coming talent. Over the next two years, she added such difficulty to her routines that she soon had some of the hardest routines in the world. She traveled to Europe in 1990 and 1991 for international meets and scored two perfect 10.0s on the balance beam at the Swiss Cup and Arthur Gander Memorial. At the 1991 Arthur Gander, she not only won the All-Around, she amassed the highest all-around total ever recorded by an American woman under the traditional 10.0 scale: a 39.875. (Kim Zmeskal had also amassed this same total score at the 1990 USA vs. USSR Challenge.)
At her first World Championships in 1991 in Indianapolis, Miller won two silver medals - in the uneven bars (where she tied Soviet Tatiana Gutsu) and the team competition. The team medal was a first for the Americans, and teammate Zmeskal became the first American to achieve the World All-Around gold medal. Miller placed second in the world during the compulsory portion of the competition to Soviet Svetlana Boginskaya.
At the 1992 American Cup, Miller fell during her final routine on the floor exercise when she was performing her mount of whipback through to full twisting double back. Due to injury, Miller missed the 1992 Individual Apparatus World Championships in Paris. Miller competed in the compulsory portion of the 1992 Nationals, where she defeated Zmeskal. Not quite back up to speed with her more difficult manuveurs, she pulled out of the Optionals and petitioned to the Olympic Trials. It was here that her career catapulted itself to the top. Although the result was controversial, Miller won the Olympic Trials and defeated Zmeskal, who was considered the favorite to win the Olympics.
Miller won the compulsory portion of the 1992 Olympic Games, and then won the entire individual portion of the team competition, advancing to the All-Around as the number one ranked gymnast in the World. She may be best-remembered for her performance in the Individual All-around at the 1992 Olympic Games. In a dramatic duel with the Unified Team’s Tatiana Gutsu, Miller missed out on the gold by the closest margin in Olympic history: 0.012 points. The result was controversial because Gutsu had originally finished 4th on her team. Though she had qualified well within the top 36 who advance to the all-around, only three athletes from each country could then advance.
In order to get round this rule, Gutsu's teammate Rozalia Galiyeva, who finished 3rd, was said to have a knee injury and was removed by the Unified Team coaches from the All-Around final. Galiyeva later said she was not injured, so perhaps Miller was unlucky to have had to compete against Gutsu in the first place. Nevertheless, she performed strongly on all four events, and by the end of the evening had accomplished the highest All-Around placement by an American in a non-boycotted Olympics. This record would stand until Carly Patterson won the title in 2004. Tim Daggett described Shannon's vault as "the most perfect piece of gymnastics that I have ever seen. I've had conversations with a number of other people who were in the arena, and they agree."
Miller continued her strong showing in event finals, when she went on to capture three more individual medals: a silver on balance beam and bronzes on floor and bars. This haul of five Olympic medals in one Games was more than that of any Americans in any sport. Along with Lavinia Miloşovici, Miller was the only female gymnast to compete in every single event at the Games (team, all-around, all four finals) and she alone performed all sixteen routines without serious error. Thirteen of her sixteen routines scored a 9.9 or higher, with her lowest score being a 9.837 on the vault in the apparatus finals.
1993 and 1994
Miller dominated world competition for the next two years, becoming the only American back-to-back World All-Around Champion in 1993 and 1994. Her performance at the 1993 world championships in Birmingham was exceptionally dominant. After having easily qualified in first place on every event in the preliminary round, Miller was somewhat underpar on beam in the all-around final but narrowly beat Gina Gogean of Romania. Following the break-up of the USSR, the athletes from the old Soviet Union had undergone huge upheaval and most were not ready to mount a sustained challenge at the 1993 worlds. Miller, on the other hand, was exceptionally well prepared, with her routines effectively reworked in order to comply better with the new code. The result in the preliminary round where she won by over two tenths (then a large margin) is very telling. She followed her all-around title with golds on bars and floor, but fell three times from the beam. She was forced to withdraw from vault due to illness.
At the 1994 world championships in Brisbane, Miller again took the all-around title. She beat another Romanian into second place, Lavinia Miloşovici, and once again there was an ex-Soviet in third. As in 1993 her performance was strong enough for the gold. She also won the title that had eluded her the previous year, the beam, with a near perfect exercise. Many gymnastics fans and experts alike feel as though Miller's balance beam performance in the apparatus finals at the 1994 world championships was the best beam routine of her career. It was not until the Goodwill Games in late 1994 that her winning streak ended. Dina Kotchetkova, beaten into third place at the world championships, took her competitive revenge by narrowly defeating Shannon Miller 39.325 to 39.268. She rebounded by earning silver medals on the vault and the uneven bars, and gold medals on the balance beam and floor exercise. She missed winning medals in the women's team competition and the mixed team competition, where she, along with her teammates, placed 4th in both categories. Two weeks later, she would compete at the 1994 U.S. National Championships, where she would win all five silver medals, each time placing second to Dominique Dawes.
Olympian and television commentator Kathy Johnson commented at the 1993 World Championships, where Miller won every single event in preliminaries, that never had she seen a gymnast so dominant since Nadia Comăneci in 1976. Bart Conner concurred, stating that only if Miller faltered could she be beaten. In 1994, however, Miller placed second to Dominique Dawes in the all-around competition at the US National Championships. Dawes also topped Miller in all four of the individual event finals at the same competition and would be Miller's chief rival for the remainder of that year. In 1995 Miller struggled with injuries, fatigue, and a growth spurt.
Although she won the 1995 American Classic, she lost the 1995 National Championships to thirteen year-old Dominique Moceanu when she fell off the beam. Coming into the 1995 World Championships, she had a realistic shot of becoming the reigning three-time consecutive World Champion, but Miller injured her ankle. Although she competed in the team competition and qualified to all four event finals once again, she could barely walk and was not up to speed. Despite performing under par, she still amassed the highest total of the entire American team. Although she had won five individual gold medals in the last two World Championships, she walked away from Sabae without a single individual medal. Here she would take seventh place on the uneven bars and a very respectable fourth place on the balance beam, after having to withdraw from both the vault and the floor exercise due to her injury.
Although struggling with severe tendinitis in her left wrist,and a pulled hamstring injury Miller won the 1996 National Championships and once again established herself as the top American entering the Olympics. Here she unveiled her new Yurchenko 1-1⁄2 twisting vault, and her double layout on the floor exercise. Many feel as though Shannon's performance on the floor at these nationals championships was her finest floor routine ever. Once again though, she was forced to sit out the Individual Apparatus World Championship in the Olympic year due to injury, and later the Olympic trials. She was able to petition onto the American team as the top performer, and the injury was sufficiently recovered by July to allow Miller to compete in her second Olympics. Her fellow teammates were Dominique Dawes, Jaycie Phelps, Amy Chow, Dominique Moceanu, Kerri Strug and Amanda Borden. Miller led the American team to history as the Magnificent 7 — the 1996 Olympic Gold medal winning American team - finally defeated the Russians for the first time ever. Kerri Strug garnered the lion's share of the media attention following her famous vault, but actually it was Miller who was the team's highest scorer, individually placing 2nd during the compulsories and 2nd after the entire team competition behind the eventual Olympic All-Around Champion, Lilia Podkopayeva. This performance qualified her for her second Olympic all-around competition.
In the All-Around, Miller was sitting in 2nd place half-way through the competition with another showdown for the gold on the horizon. But her wrist was in poor shape and had only gotten worse since the Nationals, forcing her to have 2 cortisone injections. While numbing the pain, the injections failed to solve the problem and Miller was not at her most powerful. She failed to fully complete a new skill on the floor exercise, a double layout somersault, which she landed with a big lunge forward. Miller managed 8th place finish, making her the highest ranking American in that competition. Miller won the individual Olympic gold medal on beam. This performance was her thirtieth and final routine in Olympic competition. She once again made history by becoming the first American to win the balance beam at the Olympics, becoming the first United States woman to win an individual gold medal at a non-boycotted Olympics as well as the first to win any individual apparatus in a non-boycotted Olympics. Miller concluded her career with 7 Olympic medals (two gold, two silver, three bronze).
Following the Olympics, Miller and her teammates participated in a 100-city tour and several exhibition competitions. She competed in her final world-class meet in 1997, when she won the all-around title at that year's World University Games. In 2000 Miller made a brief comeback attempt for the Sydney Olympics. She competed in the Olympic Trials, but did not complete the meet due to a knee injury, and was not selected for the team.
Her accomplishments in the sport of gymnastics have won her several major honors. She has been named to USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame, the US Olympic Hall of Fame, and the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame and the Women's International Sports Hall of Fame.
Miller is the only woman, in any sport, to be inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame twice, as an individual and for her team. With seven Olympic and nine World Championship medals, Shannon Miller is the most decorated United States Gymnast, male or female. Miller is currently tied with Nastia Liukin as the gymnasts who have won the third most World Championship medals (9) for the United States. However, Miller's world medal count includes two World All-Around Titles and a total of five golds.
|1988||Junior American Classic||2nd|
|1989||Junior American Classic||1st|
|U.S. Olympic Festival||3rd|
|Swiss Cup Zürich||1st|
|U.S. National Championships||7||3rd||1st|
|Arthur Gander Memorial||1st||1st|
|Indianapolis World Championships||2nd||2nd|
|International Mixed Pairs||1st|
|U.S. Olympic Trials||1st|
|Barcelona Olympic Games||3rd||2nd||6||3rd||2nd||3rd|
|Birmingham World Championships||1st||1st||8||1st|
|Brisbane World Championships||1st||7||1st||4|
|Dortmund World Team Championships||2nd|
|Sabae World Championships||3rd||12||7||4|
|Atlanta Olympic Games||1st||8||8||1st|
|1997||International Mixed Pairs||3rd|
|Sicily Summer Universiade||2nd||1st||4|
|2000||U.S. Olympic Trials||13|