Bounding from the Backyard Trampoline to the Olympics

Article excerpt

SHANNON MILLER: MY CHILD, MY HERO By Claudia Miller University of Oklahoma 320 pp, $19.95

Any story of an Olympic gold medalist delivers a triumph of mind, body, and spirit. "Shannon Miller," told to us by her mother, Claudia, introduces a six-year-old with a knack for front flips on the family trampoline and exits describing a self-confident gymnast at the 1996 Olympic Games with a gold medal around her neck.

A warm, homespun voice fills the narrative with stories of family sacrifices and hometown fund-raisers to finance a talented young athlete. Insights into the extraordinary demands of the gymnastics world hint at a darker side of the sport beyond tiny girls achieving mind-boggling feats. Miller's description of the tricky relationship between parents and coach competing for influence naturally focuses on the parents' viewpoint, but the mother's perspective becomes a bit smothering at times. Ultimately, the biography provides a valuable look at an ordinary Oklahoma family experiencing extraordinary things as their daughter competes in two Olympic Games, winning numerous national and international titles along the way. We also witness a young girl's struggle to gain control over her career and performance using prayer and discipline. Shannon's confidence in her relationship to God proves to be a source of great strength. …