The former American gymnast, who burst onto the Olympic stage in 1992 aged 15, shares her advice with today’s generation of athletes

Shannon Miller is the most decorated US gymnast in Olympic history, having won seven medals across two editions of the Games. Competing at the Olympic Games Barcelona 1992 at the age of just 15 she won two silver and three bronze medals, while four years later in Atlanta she led the “Magnificent Seven” to the US women’s first-ever team gold.

Here, she offers some words of wisdom to today’s athletes about dealing with pressure and success at such a young age.

Don’t believe the hype
“You can’t get too wrapped up in your own media. You’ll have good days and bad. Run your own race, and everything else will work out. I dealt with the pressure in a few different ways. When I was 15 at my first Olympic Games, I used the ‘ignorance is bliss’ strategy. I didn’t realise that I was supposed to be nervous until after they were over!”

Deal with expectation
“By 1996, I was much more aware of expectations, and I wanted to bring home gold for my country. I coped by understanding that I had trained hard; I had done the work in the years leading up to the Games. I had done the repetitions, and no matter what happened, I could be proud of how hard I trained.”

Stay focused in the Olympic run-up
“Athletes already know how to train and compete. My advice is to keep the blinders on for the next several months. Don’t get distracted from your training because the work you in the build-up is what will pay off.”

Enjoy yourself
“Once you get to the Olympic Games, make sure you enjoy it! Have fun. It’s ridiculously simple but it’s what my coach would tell me at every competition before I stepped on the floor. He never said, “Go win” or “You need to be perfect”. He knew that I was a perfectionist by nature, and I needed a little breathing space to simply enjoy the journey.”

Take it all in
“If I was giving advice to my younger self, I’d like to tell myself to open my eyes a little more and be more engaged with all of the amazing things going on around me during the Olympic Games. I ate, slept and trained… full stop. I even missed out on seeing some of the 1992 US basketball ‘dream team’ because I was napping!”

Want to learn more about performing under pressure? Go to the Athlete365 Learning  and take the course Sports Psychology – Getting in the Zone