Twenty years have passed since Shannon Miller competed for Team USA's women's gymnastics team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, but she can still remember where she was and how she felt when it hit her that she was an Olympian.
The Edmond native walked into the arena and took a long look around and found two American soldiers holding an American flag.
“It was kind of that moment in time that you remember, ‘OK, set your fears aside, set your anxiety aside and the pressure aside because this is what you're here for,' ” Miller said. “You're here to represent the United States, and that's what this is all about.”
Miller said the rest of the experiences, the individual apparatus and the competition itself blurred together after that moment.
“I kind of remember being a deer in the headlights, just having fun and not really understanding what to expect,” Miller said.
When the meet finished, she'd collected two silver medals and three bronze at the Games. She followed the '92 Olympics with gold medal-winning performances in the 1993 and 1994 World Championships, which helped prepare her for the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, where she was a member of the famed Magnificent 7 women's gymnastics team.
“In '96, I think being a little bit older and having been to an Olympics before I was able to really soak a lot more of it in,” Miller said. “I think I have a lot more memories of that team with Dominique Dawes and Kerri Strug.”
Miller knew the team could compete, knew it could win. But there was one moment when she knew they had to win.
“I remember the first event during the team competition where Jaycie Phelps nailed her dismount, and we all looked at each other,” she said. “It was kind of this moment where we knew it's on and we're not leaving here without a gold medal.”
The Magnificent 7 won team gold in 1996. Miller said it was meaningful to her to know Oklahoma was behind her.
“Whether I won a competition or completely lost — I hate to say lost — but whether I lost a competition, whatever happened Oklahoma was behind me,” Miller said. And it wasn't just the state of Oklahoma — it was people. The people of Oklahoma were behind me.”