At what age did you begin participating in gymnastics?
I began gymnastics at age 5.
What first made you want to participate in gymnastics?
I started in gymnastics primarily because I wanted to be like my big sister. We loved to try flips at home and I think our parents were also concerned about us hurting ourselves (or the furniture).
What other sports did you play growing up? Any good stories about them?
I focused mostly on gymnastics growing up. I loved being in the gym and challenging myself with new skills and routines. I did a little skiing when I was very young and participated in dance before and during my gymnastics training. Dance was probably my first love.
What were some of the challenges you faced? Early on? Now?
I was a small child. However, I was always trying to keep up with my big sister, so I never felt as if my size was a challenge. When I began gymnastics and particularly as I began working on the different events and attempting more difficult skills I had a began to have a tough time due to my size. My hands were small and didn't wrap around the oval shaped bars that we had at the time. I lacked power because I lacked weight to compress the springs of the vaulting board. So, while my size didn't really concern me it did lead to that first opportunity in sport to find my way around an obstacle. I decided that instead of thinking of the things that were difficult for me I was going to figure out where my strengths were and really run with it. All the other girls seemed hesitant or fearful on balance beam. So, I decided that I just wasn't going to be scared. Balance beam, at four inches wide, fit perfectly for my small feet! I loved that it was a mix of dance and acrobatics. It was then, very early on in my career, that I fell in love with the most feared event in all of gymnastics. The Balance Beam.
Greatest moment/accomplishment in your sport?
I think the greatest moment and the greatest accomplishment would probably be viewed as two separate events. Many would share in my feeling that winning gold during the 1996 Olympic Games in both team and the balance beam were tremendous accomplishments. These are the ultimate moments for an Olympian. It's when all the hard work by so many pays off and dreams come true. And those were certainly great moments for me! But there were so many great moments in my career. There was the first time I fell in a competition at about 9 years old and yet still mustered a win. That moment taught me the importance of getting back up and continuing no matter what. There was the first time I won a competition on international soil and saw the American flag being raised to the sound of my National Anthem. It was simply inspiring. I could go on and on about the big and small moments that have made an impact on me and my life. I am forever thankful to sport for the amazing opportunities and life lessons I have gained.
Future plans within your sport?
I am well retired at this point but have enjoyed the opportunity to remain involved with gymnastics and the Olympic movement primarily through commentary and analysis.
Future plans outside of the sport, i.e. professional life, personal life?
Since retiring for gymnastics, I have earned my degrees in Marketing and Entrepreneurship from the University of Houston and my law degree from Boston College. I went on to launch my foundation dedicated to promoting youth activity through in-school running clubs that motivate children to find their love of physical activity. In 2010, I launched my company Shannon Miller Enterprises with a mission to help women make their health a priority. I am enjoying the opportunity to do something I love and am passionate about each day while my husband and I are having a ball raising our two children.
How far has the sport of gymnastics come during the timeframe in which you have been involved?
The sport of gymnastics has changed dramatically since the time I was competing. The scoring system has been completely redesigned and the skills being performed are more difficult than ever. However, I think the equipment has changed the most. There are more springs in the equipment than ever, the landing mats are thicker, the uneven bars are smaller and wider than ever and the vaulting "horse" has now become the vaulting "table" lending to more springs and a wider, safer surface from which to push. It's just incredible the technology that is used to keep up with the difficult skills being performed.
What lessons have you taken from gymnastics that have helped you in your professional and personal life away from the beam, bars, and mats?
I couldn't possibly list all the incredible life lessons I have learned through gymnastics. Not only is it a wonderful sport for physical activity for your whole body but it also taught me wonderful lessons such as goal setting skills, perseverance, the importance of a positive attitude, team work and the importance of making mistakes as well as getting back up. You learn that failure is simply a stepping stone to success and that most time the people that succeed are simply the ones that refuse to give up.
What advice do you have for younger athletes coming up in gymnastics?
I always like to tell athletes three things:
1) Set Goals. Make sure you are setting long-term goals but back them up with short-term goals for each month, week and even each day. That way you are always working toward your ultimate goal and feel a sense of accomplishment along the way.
2) No Limits: Do not limit yourself with negative thoughts or allow others to limit your success. It's easy to think of reasons why you won't succeed. It is your job to find those reasons why you WILL succeed.
3) Have Fun: It's not going to be easy all of the time. There will be tough times and learning experiences but it's important to find a sport that you can truly enjoy and be passionate about.
3 words to describe your sports journey.
Challenging, Inspiring, Persistent