The next time one of the players competing in the fifth U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship makes an uncharacteristic double bogey, she should remember Shannon Miller’s recovery from an embarrassing faux pas in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
“It was the vault competition,” Miller recalled at Friday’s players’ dinner at Timuquana Country Club. “I ran down that 70-foot runway as fast as I could, hurtled onto the springboard and flew over that vaulting horse – and landed right on my backside for the entire world to see.”
Much of the world did see it. Miller, then 19, was part of the USA gymnastics team dubbed the “Magnificent Seven” for the team gold medal they had won days earlier – the country’s first team gold in that event.
But Miller’s pursuit of additional gold in Atlanta was not going well. First, she stepped out of bounds during the floor exercise for the individual all-around title – which she was leading at the time – and the penalty for the misstep dropped her out of medal contention. Then came the inexplicable crash landing in the vault, which lives on via “the magic of YouTube,” as Miller ruefully noted. Later that night, Miller tried to make sense of the stumbles as she awaited her final Olympic shot.
“I remember that I started to vent about it to my mother [Claudia],” said Miller, 42. “I said, I don’t understand it. I stepped out of bounds, and things like that happen, but this vault – I’ve never missed it, not in training, not in competition. And then, ‘Splat!’ And now, I was terrified.”
It didn’t help that the final 90 seconds of Miller’s Olympic career would be played out on the 4-inch-wide balance beam, or as she called it, “the most feared event in gymnastics.”
“My mother stopped my venting and said, ‘Let me ask you – have you done the work? The competitions, the training?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve done the work. I don’t always get it right, but I give it everything I have every time I go out there.’ And she said, ‘I know. And that’s why I also know that you can walk into that arena with your head high, confident that no matter what happens, you’ve done everything you could to get it right.’”