Catching up with Shannon Miller

Shannon Miller
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Shannon Miller earned seven Olympic medals, two new cars and a TV commercial with Patrick Ewing for Trivial Pursuit during her gymnastics career.

The most decorated U.S. Olympic gymnast of all time missed all-around gold by .012 of a point at the 1992 Barcelona Games, where she won five medals at age 15, the most of any American across all sports. She added two more golds at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics as an anchor for the Magnificent Seven.

After each Olympics, Miller returned to Edmond, Okla., where welcome-home gifts included sometimes disturbing fan mail (more on that later) and cars. She received a 1993 red Saturn sports coupe after Barcelona, though she was too young to drive it by herself, and a green 1996 Chevrolet Camaro after Atlanta.

Miller was diagnosed with a form of ovarian cancer in January 2011, less than a year after launching her company, Shannon Miller Lifestyle: Health and Fitness for Women.

She had a baseball-sized tumor removed, underwent nine weeks of chemotherapy and has been cancer-free for three years.

Miller, now 37, lives in Jacksonville, Fla., with her husband. They welcomed their second child last year.

OlympicTalk recently caught up with Miller at her annual 5K event in downtown Jacksonville to look back on her career and discuss her current ventures.

Catching up with: Bruce JennerMark Henry | Paul Wylie | Blaine Wilson | Sasha Cohen | Tim Goebel | Bernard ‘Hollywood’ Williams

OlympicTalk: What do you remember about meeting the Dream Team at the 1992 Olympics?

Miller: When we walked into the Olympic Village for the first time, we had already been in France for two weeks ahead of time. I was only 15 years old, so I was getting a little homesick. We turn around, and there’s the Dream Team. For me, this little 15-year-old from Oklahoma, it was like family because I grew up watching them. So for me, it was like, yay, there’s other people here with me. We’re all from Team USA.

OlympicTalk: What was it like going back to high school in 1992 as a five-time Olympic medalist?

Miller: I was really shy growing up, so I kept to myself. My friends that were there before I won five medals were right there afterwards. No one made a big deal. Every now and then you heard a whisper in the halls. Or the teachers kind of knew. I continued to live in my little bubble and just go on as if nothing had happened.

OlympicTalk: What was the most interesting piece of fan mail you got after 1992 or 1996?

Miller: I don’t know if it’s a positive thing, but the ones that made the biggest impression on me was I would get death threats at the age of 15. My parents read all of my fan mail first because they knew that not everything was going to be appropriate for a 15-year-old. The only ones that I found out about were the nice letters that wanted an autograph. But there was a couple where the FBI had to be called in, so they couldn’t really hide that from me. That’s a tough thing for a young girl who thinks, “I just do gymnastics.”

source: AP
Shannon Miller won team and balance beam gold at the 1996 Olympics. (AP)

OlympicTalk: What are your fondest memories of the Magnificent Seven?

Miller: Certainly the day of the team competition, but also afterwards (on a post-Olympic gymnastics tour). That’s where we really got to know each other. We toured almost 100 cities. It was insane. It was wonderful. We got time to actually talk and learn about us as people.

In Atlanta, I just remember walking into the Georgia Dome that first night. It was insane. I mean, for practices, you had 40,000 people. You just couldn’t believe it.

OlympicTalk: Tell me something interesting about Bela Karolyi.

Miller: My first meeting with Bela, I was 7 years old. My mom had taken me and some other girls from our gym had gone up to do the Karolyi camp. I won some little trick contest, and I got to pie Bela Karolyi in the face. That was my reward. That was my introduction to Bela Karolyi.

OlympicTalk: Who do you consider the greatest female gymnast of all time?

Miller: I don’t even know that I could because the way gymnastics evolved and how quickly it evolved. Something that Nadia Comaneci did years ago, that’s what 6-year-olds are doing now. What I did in 1996 are what 8-year-olds are doing now.

Vitaly Scherbo on the men’s side, six gold medals (for the Unified Team at the 1992 Olympics), that’s a tough one to beat. Nadia Comaneci dominated, but again the era was so different.

OlympicTalk: You’ve been cancer free for three years. What has going through that done for your perspective on life?

Miller: When you talk to any survivor, you notice the change. You’re not the same person you were before. It’s not necessarily negative. For me, it has been in some ways a blessing because it helps me remember those important things, to stop and smell the roses, to enjoy the small stuff along the way, not just the big things that go on in our lives. It helped me take a breath of fresh air, to remember what life’s all about. It’s also really inspired me to do more. My company was actually started before my diagnosis. So it’s just really lit that flame and increased that passion.

OlympicTalk: Tell me about Shannon Miller Lifestyle.

Miller: It’s all about women and health. Our mission is to help women make their health a priority in whatever form. So that may be nutrition, fitness, cancer awareness, diabetes, heart disease. The Shannon Miller Foundation is fighting health and obesity here on the First Coast (Jacksonville). So we support over 8,000 children in the local area to help them get interested and have the opportunity to be physically active.

American Cup winner Elizabeth Price explains decision to retire

Katie Ledecky talks swimming legacy and life in Gainesville

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OlympicTalk recently caught up with Katie Ledecky to discuss life since moving from Stanford to Florida 15 months ago, her meticulous mindset, and the legacy she continues to build.

*This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can also catch an encore presentation of Ledecky’s performance at the 2022 U.S. Open this Saturday at 4:30 pm ET on NBC.

What does a typical day look like for you Gainesville? Walk me through a full day starting from the minute your alarm clock goes off.

Ledecky: A typical day would be waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning and swimming from 6 to 8. Then I have weights from 8 to 9:15. I get breakfast, have lunch and then take a nap. Then I have practice again at 2 or 3 in the afternoon for another two hours.

Wow, that sounds incredibly busy! Have you had a chance to find any new favorite places to eat in Gainesville?

Ledecky: I’m still kind of finding my spots. There is a breakfast spot pretty close to campus that a lot of the swimmers like, so I go there quite a bit, but I’m still looking. I haven’t gone to very many places more than once.

What are you doing in your free time? Are you coaching?

Ledecky: Yes, I’m volunteering with the [University of Florida] team, but I think of myself more as a teammate. I have a lot of other things going on with sponsorships, but aside from that, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I have a piano and enjoy playing that!

How often do you get to see your family?

Ledecky: My parents, David and Mary, still live in the D.C. area, and then my brother, Michael, lives in New York, so I’m a lot closer to home [than at Stanford]. I see them around the holidays, and they come to a lot of my swim meets.

I know how much you love to stay academically engaged. Are you taking any classes at the University of Florida?

Ledecky: I’m not taking any classes right now. I’m taking a break, but I’m still trying to learn as much as I can just in other areas, reading a lot and watching the news, following different things that I’m interested in. I think at some point, I’ll probably go to grad school, but I’m still figuring out what area that would be in right now.

There’s a quote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I feel like that only scratches the surface of describing your work ethic and mindset. You demand excellence in every area of your life, not just from yourself, but from others around you. Can you talk about where that mindset comes from?

Ledecky: I’ve always had that kind of a mindset. I’m very driven, and I’m always setting new goals for myself no matter what I’ve achieved in the past. I’m always looking forward, I don’t take very many breaks, and so it’s always on to the next goal and making sure I’m doing the little things right and doing the things I need to do to reach my goals.

To be able to perform at the level that you do every single day takes a lot of mental toughness. What do Katie Ledecky’s inner thoughts look like? What do you tell yourself? Any affirmations? 

Ledecky: I try to stay positive no matter how well or how poorly a practice or a race is going. When I’m swimming, I give myself positive mental pep talks along the way throughout a race. I’ll say “keep it up,” “hold pace” or “hit this turn.”

I just want to read you a few tweets… 

You idolized Michael Phelps when you were younger, and now you’re that person for a lot of people. You’re the GOAT. You’re Katie Ledecky. Someone’s idol. What does that feel like?

Ledecky: It’s an honor to have young swimmers look up to me, and I don’t take that lightly. I try to be a good role model and reach out to young kids and sign autographs and take photos if people approach me at swim meets. I hope that there are some young swimmers out there that will grow up to be champions or maybe they’ll just continue to love the sport or find other things that they’re passionate about, but it’s an honor.

Have you had any memorable interactions with young swimmers?

Ledecky:  Yeah, actually the World Cup in Indianapolis [in November]. We were given those giant checks at the end of the meet that you really can’t travel with, so I was able to sign it and give it to one of the basket carriers at the meet. They were thrilled, and it was fun to be able to put a smile on their face.

Give me just one word to describe each of these milestones in your life, starting with the 2012 Olympics.

Ledecky: The first. It was my first international competition and my first gold medal, so that’s the one that’ll probably be the most special for me forever.

OLY-2012-SWIM

2016 Rio Olympics.

Ledecky: Consistency. I was swimming in multiple events at the Olympics for the first time and I just got into a really good rhythm and felt so comfortable in the pool deck. So confident. That was just a very unique feeling.

Tokyo Games.

Ledecky: Tokyo was different with all the COVID protocols. Nobody in the stands. No family there. But it was a lot of fun still, so a lot of great memories with my teammates there.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind at the end of your career? What do you want to be remembered for?

Ledecky: I’d like to be remembered as somebody that worked really hard and gave my best effort every time I got up on the blocks and represented Team USA. Hopefully, I can continue to inspire young kids to work hard in whatever it is that they are passionate about, whether that’s something academic, athletic, or something else. If you find something that you really love, you should go all in on it and try to be the best you can be at it.

You’ve achieved so much in life already personally and professionally, I just want to ask: Are you genuinely happy? Are you satisfied in this season of life right now?

Ledecky: Oh yeah, I’m very happy. I love the sport more and more every year. I get a little sad thinking about the day I will eventually retire–which isn’t anytime soon. I love the sport. I’m trying to just enjoy every day of training and racing and trying to be the best that I can be.

I say this all the time, I never imagined I would even make it to one Olympics and so to be training now to try to qualify for a fourth Olympics is it’s all just icing on the cake at this point and something that I truly enjoy. I enjoy doing it with my teammates, striving for similar goals, and getting to do it with really great people.

Knowing all that you know now, what advice would you give to your younger self — the little Palisades Porpoise?

Ledecky: I don’t have very many regrets or anything in my career, so I think I would just continue to tell myself to have fun and enjoy every moment. Maybe, write down a little bit more early on. I’ve done a better job of journaling and writing down different things so that I can remember them down the road, but I didn’t do as good of a job in 2012 and 2013.

Rapid-fire questions. Race day hype song? 

Ledecky: “Badlands” by Bruce Springsteen.

Finish this sentence: I’m not ready for a meet without … 

Ledecky: My suit, cap and goggles.

Did you have AIM back in the day? What was your embarrassing screen name?

Ledecky: I didn’t. I didn’t even have a cell phone until before the London Olympics. I think I actually borrowed my brother’s phone for that, and then we went out and bought an iPad so that I could FaceTime my family from London. I didn’t have an email account either until high school.

Your life is on the line. You need to sing one karaoke song to save it. What are you picking?

Ledecky: Well, USA Swimming did carpool karaoke in 2016 before the Olympics. My car did “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, which is a great karaoke song because it’s like 10 minutes long so maybe I would choose that just as a fun memory. We also did “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen in 2012. Those are two fun songs with some fond memories.

Post-workout meal?

Ledecky: After morning practice, eggs and toast or veggies and eggs. I love breakfast. I could eat breakfast food for all three meals and I’d be satisfied.

Cheat meal? 

Ledecky: Either pizza or a burger.

If you had to choose another Olympic sport to compete in what would it be and why? 

Ledecky: Probably hockey. I’m not good on skates, but it’s my favorite sport to watch.

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Marie-Philip Poulin is first female hockey player to win Canada Athlete of the Year

Marie-Philip Poulin
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Marie-Philip Poulin became the first female hockey player to win Canada’s Athlete of the Year after captaining the national team at the Winter Olympics and winning her third gold medal.

Poulin, 31, scored twice and assisted once in Canada’s 3-2 win over the U.S. in the Olympic final on Feb. 17. She has scored seven of Canada’s 10 goals over the last four Olympic finals dating to the 2010 Vancouver Games — all against the U.S.

Nine different male hockey players won Canada Athlete of the Year — now called the Northern Star Award — since its inception in 1936, led by Wayne Gretzky‘s four titles. Sidney Crosby won it in 2007 and 2009, and Carey Price was the most recent in 2015.

Poulin is the fifth consecutive Olympic champion to win the award in an Olympic year after bobsledder Kaillie Humphries in 2014, swimmer Penny Oleksiak in 2016, moguls skier Mikaël Kingsbury in 2018 and decathlete Damian Warner in 2021.

Canada’s other gold medalists at February’s Olympics were snowboarder Max Parrot in slopestyle, plus teams in speed skating’s women’s team pursuit and short track’s men’s 5000m relay.

In men’s hockey, Cale Makar won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in leading the Colorado Avalanche to the Stanley Cup and the Norris Trophy as the season’s best defenseman.

The Northern Star Award is annually decided by Canadian sports journalists.

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