Shannon Lee Miller Falconetti (born March 10, 1977) is an American former artistic gymnast. She was the 1993 and 1994 world all-around champion, the 1996 Olympic balance beam champion, the 1995 Pan American Games all-around champion, and a member of the gold medal-winning Magnificent Seven team at the 1996 Olympics.

Miller is the most decorated U.S. gymnast, male or female, at the Olympic Games, with a total of 7 medals. With a combined total of 16 World Championships and Olympic medals between 1991 and 1996, she is the second most decorated gymnast, male or female, in U.S. history, behind Simone Biles, and the tenth most decorated gymnast from any country by her individual medal count. She was also the most successful American athlete at the 1992 Olympics, winning five medals.

Early life

Miller was born in Rolla, Missouri, but she and her family moved to Edmond, Oklahoma, when she was six months old. She began gymnastics when she was five and traveled to Moscow with her mother at the age of nine to participate in a gymnastics camp.

As a teenager, Miller attended Edmond North High School, working with a flexible program that accommodated her training, travel and competition schedule.

Miller's mother was a bank vice president, and her father was a professor at the University of Central Oklahoma.

Gymnastics career

1989–1991

For most of her career, Miller was coached by Steve Nunno and Peggy Liddick, who went on to become the national coach of the Australian women's gymnastics team.[9]

As a 12-year-old, she finished third at the 1989 Olympic Festival, a competition designed to showcase up-and-coming talent.

She traveled to Europe in 1990 and 1991 for international meets and scored perfect 10s on the balance beam at the Swiss Cup and the Arthur Gander Memorial. At the 1991 Gander Memorial, she won the all-around with the highest total score ever recorded by an American woman under the traditional 10.0 scale: a 39.875. (Kim Zmeskal earned the same total at the 1990 USA vs. USSR Challenge.)

At her first World Championships in 1991 in Indianapolis, Miller won two silver medals: one on the uneven bars (where she tied with Soviet gymnast Tatiana Gutsu) and one in the team competition.[2] She placed second to Soviet Svetlana Boginskaya during the compulsory portion of the competition.

1992

Due to injury, Miller missed the 1992 World Championships in Paris. Not quite back up to speed with her more difficult skills, she pulled out of the optionals competition at the National Championships and petitioned to the Olympic Trials. Although the result was controversial,[3] Miller won the Trials over her rival, Zmeskal, who was the 1991 world champion.

Miller won the compulsory portion of the 1992 Olympic Games and scored the highest of any gymnast in the overall team competition, securing the bronze medal for the US women's team and advancing to the all-around final as the top-ranked gymnast in the world. In the all-around final, she missed out on the gold by the closest margin in Olympic history, finishing 0.012 points behind Gutsu. Her coach, Steve Nunno, claimed she was robbed of the gold medal by unfair judging.[4]

In event finals, she captured three more individual medals: a silver on balance beam and bronzes on uneven bars and floor exercise. Her haul of five Olympic medals was more than that of any other American athlete in Barcelona. She was one of only two female gymnasts, along with Lavinia Miloşovici of Romania, to compete in every event final at the Games, and she alone performed all sixteen of her routines without serious error. Thirteen of her routines scored a 9.9 or higher, with her lowest score being a 9.837 in the vault final.[5]

With her two silver and three bronze medals at the 1992 Summer Olympics, Miller holds the record for most medals won at a single Olympic Games without winning gold.

1993

At the 1993 World Championships in Birmingham, Miller won every event in preliminaries, and television commentator Kathy Johnson, a 1984 Olympian, remarked that she had not seen a gymnast so dominant since Nadia Comăneci in 1976. Bart Conner agreed, stating that Miller could only be beaten if she faltered. Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, its sports system had undergone upheaval, and most former Soviet gymnasts were not ready to mount a sustained challenge in 1993. Miller, on the other hand, had reworked her routines to comply better with the new Code of Points. She won the all-around title, followed by gold medals on bars and floor. However, she fell three times in the beam final and withdrew from the vault final due to illness.

1994

At the 1994 World Championships in Brisbane, Miller again took the all-around title, beating Miloşovici and becoming the first American gymnast to win back-to-back world all-around titles. She also won the beam title, which had eluded her the previous year, with a near-perfect exercise.

Her winning streak ended in late 1994 at the Goodwill Games, where Dina Kochetkova of Russia, who had finished in third place at the World Championships, defeated her by a narrow margin, 39.325 to 39.268. Miller rebounded by earning gold medals on beam and floor and silver medals on vault and bars. She missed out on medals in the team competition and the mixed team competition, both of which saw fourth-place finishes for the United States.

Two weeks later, Miller competed at the 1994 National Championships, where she won five silver medals, placing second to Dominique Dawes each time.[6]

1995

Although she won the 1995 American Classic, Miller lost the 1995 National Championships to 13-year-old Dominique Moceanu. At the 1995 World Championships in Sabae, Japan, she amassed the highest total score of the American team but walked away without an individual medal. She placed seventh on the uneven bars and fourth on the balance beam, and had to withdraw from the vault and floor finals due to injury.[7]

1996

Although struggling with severe tendinitis in her left wrist and a pulled hamstring, Miller won the 1996 National Championships. Once again, though, she was forced to sit out the World Championships 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 at Nationals, and the injury was sufficiently recovered by July to allow her to compete in her second Olympics.

Miller led the American team, dubbed the Magnificent Seven, to the gold medal, defeating the Russians for the first time ever. Kerri Strug garnered the majority of the media attention after landing her second vault on an injured foot, which forced her to withdraw from the all-around and event finals. But Miller, who was the team's highest scorer, placed second after the team competition behind Lilia Podkopayeva, qualifying her for her second Olympic all-around final.

In the all-around, Miller was ranked second halfway through the competition. In the end, she placed eighth, but was the highest-ranking American in the competition. She also became the first American to win the balance beam final at the Olympics, as well as the first American woman to win an individual gold medal at a non-boycotted Olympics. She concluded her career with seven Olympic medals.

1997–2000

Following the Olympics, Miller and her teammates participated in a 100-city tour and several exhibitions. She competed in her final international meet in 1997, when she won the all-around title at the World University Games.

In 2000, Miller made a brief comeback attempt for the Sydney Olympics. She competed in the Olympic Trials, but after a fall on vault, she decided to withdraw from the competition despite being cleared by a doctor to continue.

Honors

Miller is a member of the USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame, the United States Olympic Hall of Fame, the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame, and the Women's International Sports Hall of Fame. She 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, Miller is one of the most decorated American gymnasts, male or female. She is tied with Nastia Liukin for the most World Championship medals (9) won by an American gymnast, behind Simone Biles (14) and Alicia Sacramone (10).

Post-gymnastics career

In 2003, Miller graduated from the University of Houston with a B.B.A. in marketing and entrepreneurship. She entered Boston College Law School later that year and graduated in 2007. Afterward, however, she opted not to take the bar exam. She moved to Florida, where she made appearances at gyms, conducted beam clinics, and starred in workout DVDs.

On October 21, 2015, Miller entered a business partnership with Juice Plus for a branded line of dietary supplements. Also in 2015, her autobiography, It's Not About Perfect: Competing for My Country and Fighting for My Life, was published in 2015 by St. Martin's Press.

She is currently the president of Shannon Miller Lifestyle and the Shannon Miller Foundation, which is dedicated to fighting childhood obesity.

Personal life

Miller married lawyer and ophthalmologist Christopher B. Phillips in June 1999. The couple separated in 2004, and their divorce was finalized in 2006. While Phillips accused Miller of infidelity with a married male athlete, Miller denied the claim, and it did not figure into the divorce grounds.

In August 2007, Miller announced her engagement to John Falconetti, the president of Drummond Press and former chairman of the Republican executive committee of Duval County, Florida. They married on August 25, 2008, and have two children: a son, John Rocco, born on October 28, 2009, and a daughter, Sterling Diane, born on June 25, 2013.

In February 2011, Miller revealed that she had been diagnosed with germ cell ovarian cancer, a month after doctors removed a baseball-sized cyst from one of her ovaries. She underwent three cycles of chemotherapy from March 7 to May 2, 2011.[17] In September 2011, her doctor gave her a clean bill of health.[18]

Competitive history

YearEventTeamAAVTUBBBFX
1988U.S. Classic (junior)2nd
1989U.S. Classic (junior)1st
U.S. Olympic Festival3rd
1990American Classic2nd
U.S. Classic2nd
Swiss Cup Zürich1st
1991U.S. Classic2nd
U.S. National Championships7th3rd1st
American Cup1st
Arthur Gander Memorial1st
DTB Cup3rd
Swiss Cup1st
World Championships2nd2nd
1992American Cup3rd1st1st1st
International Mixed Pairs1st
Olympic Trials1st
Olympic Games3rd2nd6th3rd2nd3rd
1993U.S. National Championships1st2nd1st3rd1st
American Cup1st1st1st1st
World Championships1st1st8th1st
1994U.S. National Championships2nd2nd2nd2nd2nd
World Championships1st7th1st4th
Team World Championships2nd
1995American Classic1st
U.S. National Championships[22]2nd1st3rd
World Championships3rd12th7th4th
1996U.S. National Championships1st
Olympic Games1st8th8th1st
1997International Mixed Pairs3rd
Summer Universiade2nd1st4th
2000Olympic Trials13th

See also