Shannon Miller, now 36 years old, is the most successful gymnast in American History. After winning two silvers at the 1991 World Championships, Miller showed herself as the "It Girl" of American Gymnastics when she helped the team to a Bronze Medal in the Team Final, was the leader in the All Around before the Finals, and won the All Around Silver Medal by the closest margin in Olympic History- .012. to Tatiana Gutsu, as well as having a Silver Medal performance during Beam Finals, and winning the Bronze Medal on Bars and Floor. Miller only got better during the 1993-1996 Quadrennium, where she became the only American to win back-to-back World All Around Champion in 1993 and 1994, as well as picking up Golds on Bars and Floor in 1993 and Beam in 1994, Silver with the US Team in 1994, and a Team Bronze in 1995. As a member of the "Magnificent 7", Miller lead the US Team to a Gold Medal in ATlanta, and won an Individual Gold on Beam. Today, Miller is married to John Falconetti, and they have one son Rocco and one daughter Sterling. After the birth of Rocco, Miller was diagnosed Ovarian Cancer, which she won her battle with in September 2011. Miller is the founder and President of Shannon Miller Lifestyle, which focuses on living healthy.
1. What was it like to compete knowing you could achieve the Perfect 10?
Every time you step on the floor it’s about achieving perfection whether it’s a stuck landing or a hit routine. The 10.0 allowed you to have a very specific goal regarding a score. Of course, there is also just something special about achieving the “perfect ten.” Nadia Comaneci made the perfect ten the ultimate statement in our sport. It’s almost like grabbing a little bit of history when you achieve it!
2. Which system is better for the sport of gymnastics in your opinion, the current system or the Perfect 10?
They both have their pros and cons. I believe the perfect 10 is better for the spectators, particularly those that tend to watch gymnastics during the Olympics but may not tune in during the years in between. I think there’s a sense of excitement that comes with the idea of closing in on perfection. For the athletes, I’m not sure it matters too much. We have the rules and we remain flexible with the changes (pardon the pun). It’s also nice to have the designation of difficulty versus execution. It has taken some getting used to for all sides of the sport but you try to make the best of any new situation.
3. You remain the most successful gymnast, male or female, in US history. Do you believe you paved the way for the future of USA Gymnastics?
We all have our part. Many paved the way for me to have success in the sport, and I hope that I have helped encourage other young athletes to follow their dreams. I was never very outspoken but always believed in leading by example. I hope that my success in the sport shows others that if you have a dream and you work hard to achieve it, anything is possible.
Lol, well there was driving through Dairy Queen with our security guard after the competitions had all concluded. That solidified my love of the chocolate and cookie dough Blizzard! But seriously, standing up on the podium with my team after the team final was amazing! I don’t think I truly realized what an incredible feat we had achieved. There is nothing like seeing the American flag being raised to the sounds of our National Anthem.
5. How did your life after the Olympics change from before it?
I had been through one Olympic cycle (Barcelona) so to some degree I understood the craziness that was about to happen. But having the Games in the US and winning two gold medals just maximized everything! We went on a 100 city tour throughout the nation performing in front of thousands of people almost every night. However, along with the television shows, appearances and tours came a bit of disappointment. I had retired from Olympic competition and wasn’t sure what I was going to do next.
6. How have you stayed involved with the sport after your career ended?
I stayed involved on the performance side, touring in each of the post-Olympic tours from 1992-2008. I think I’m the longest touring gymnast ever, lol. I have also been an analyst and commentator since 2000 and hosted a gymnastics television show for Comcast for 5 years. Now that I have children, I continue to work to promote the sport of gymnastics at all levels.
7. You've tried to have a normal adult life, how have you done so?
I feel like I’ve always had a “normal” life, because it’s normal for me. I try to maintain a balance of “celebrity” with doing something each day that helps others. Nothing can replace the feeling of flying through the air or flipping on a balance beam but I continue to have different excitement in my life, some good some more difficult. Having my children has really kept me grounded. They don’t care how many gold medals you have, to them you are just Mom….and I love that!
8. After you had your first son Rocco, you were diagnosed with a rare form of Ovarian Cancer.
Can you talk about your fight?
With all the titles I’ve earned over the years; Olympian, Mother, President (of my company) I never imagined at the age of 33 I would add cancer survivor. My son was just over a year old when I was diagnosed, and the only thing I could do was fight. I had to be here for him. I was fortunate that mine was caught early at a routine exam. I went through a difficult surgery and an aggressive chemotherapy regimen that left me weak, sick and bald…but I am now cancer free. I believe that God has a plan for each of us. I feel like this challenge helped me grow as a person, be a better mom and find a renewed passion for helping women make their health a priority.
9. You call your new daughter Sterling your miracle. How old is Sterling now and how is she doing?
Sterling (named after her maternal great grandfather, Robert Sterling) is 6 ½ months old, and she is so much fun. She has a very relaxed demeanor, smiles a lot and loves to “talk.” We feel so blessed to have both Rocco and Sterling and just enjoy every moment with them.
10. You commentated at the Olympics and many gym fans believe you should commentate full time. Any plans for a future in the business?
They are sooo sweet. I always get nervous doing commentary, just like I did for gymnastics. I want to do a good job and put out solid information. There is so much preparation that goes into it and it’s nice to hear that people appreciate that. Right now, I take commentary jobs when I can. I truly enjoy it, particularly for the Olympics. But I also love to do analysis and more in depth pieces with the athletes. Of course, I also have a company to run so I try to balance everything as well as possible.
11. You've dedicated your life post-gymnastics to helping other people get and stay fit. What inspired you to form Shannon Miller Lifestyle?
12. What is your opinion on USA Gymnastics current group of athletes?
The year or so after the Olympics is always a rebuilding year. You wait to see which athletes stay the course and what new comers are moving in to take their place. I’m looking forward to USA National Championships this year. As always, we have some incredible talent out there and it’s going to be an exciting road to Rio!
13. What advice can you give to young gymnasts?
I always tell young athletes to enjoy it! Not every day is going to be a piece of cake, but you should truly enjoy what you do or you won’t do it well.
14. Is there a future in gymnastics for Rocco or Sterling?