Congratulations and good luck in Rio, Team USA!
Shannon Miller was the most successful American athlete at the 1992 Olympics, having won a total of five medals, and is the tenth most decorated gymnast of all time. Listen to her thoughts on the impacts of competition…
Competition to me was all about remembering lessons from practice; ideally I made my mistakes in the gym, not when there were judges watching.
[My coach] always went over routines with me before an event. He knew I didn’t need pep talks because I was eager to get out there. But he did like to center me, focus my thoughts. The green light came on, I saluted the judge or panel of judges and I was ready. Not that I didn’t make plenty of mistakes, but I thrived on competition.
Every gymnast has had that skill, that one impossible skill, that, try as they might, they just can’t master. Even Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas had one, though it might not be what you’d expect…
It’s called a kip, and it’s on of the toughest skills a gymnast first learns on the uneven bars… The skill, which can be used to either mount the bar or connect elements in a routine, is a big part of just about every level of competition. That makes it a must-do skill. And in May 2003, I was failing at it. Big time.
After going to four doctors to avoid a 12-week casting of her leg for stress fractures, Shawn had had enough:
“I want this off, please,” I said sweetly. I was hoping he might not realize that it had been on only a week.
“Nice try,” he said. “I want you to participate as much as anyone, but you have to realize that our bodies heal on their own schedule, not the Olympics’ schedule. Your leg hasn’t had time to properly heal.”
“If you’re not going to get this off me, I’m going to have my dad cut if off,” I finally blurted out. “And he’s going to be using power tools in the garage.”
The doctor reluctantly agreed under one condition: that I promise to wear a boot and rest for a little bit. Though this was a minor injury, it sobered me. It had looked like an Olympics spot was right there for the taking. But again I was reminded of what a fickle sport gymnastics can be.