It’s Not About Perfect: Competing for My Country and Fighting for My Life by Shannon Miller #Olympics

It’s another week of Olympics coverage here on Bargain Sleuth Book Reviews, and today’s book is from Shannon Miller, who, before Simone Biles came along, was the most decorated American gymnast in history. She was competed in two Olympics and walked away with a lot of hardware. It’s Not About Perfect: Competing for My Country and Fighting for My Life (Amazon) also tells the story of Shannon’s battle with Cancer at a young age.

“When she retired at age 19, Shannon Miller did so as one of the most recognizable gymnasts in the country. The winner of seven Olympic medals and the most decorated gymnast, male or female, in U.S. history, Shannon tells a story of surviving and thriving. A shy, rambunctious girl raised in Oklahoma, Shannon fell in love with gymnastics at a young age and fought her way to the top.

In 1992 she won five Olympic medals after breaking her elbow in a training accident just months prior to the Games. Then, in 1996, a doctor advised her to retire immediately or face dire consequences if she chose to compete on her injured wrist. Undeterred, Shannon endured the pain and led her team, the “Magnificent Seven,” to the first Olympic team gold medal for the United States in gymnastics. She followed up as the first American to win gold on the balance beam.

Equally intense, heroic and gratifying is the story of her brutal but successful battle with ovarian cancer, a disease from which fewer than fifty percent survive. Relying on her faith and hard-learned perseverance, Shannon battled through surgery and major chemotherapy to emerge on the other side with a miracle baby girl.”

I read this book when it first came out several years ago and gave it a rather low rating. Since I’m focusing on the Olympics on the blog while Tokyo 2020 is going on, I wondered why I had rated it so low. Audible included the book with my membership so I decided to listen to the book. I definitely think it’s better than I originally thought all those years ago.

Shannon relates her gymnastics career in great detail for the first 2/3 of the book. She has a fantastic memory, or relied on journals, to remember every major competition, every injury, every mistake, and every medal she won. The problem I had was that she was rather clinical with her recitations of these facts. There wasn’t a lot of introspection or dwelling on her feelings about things. It’s just put out there with no emotion. That’s not to say that racking up all those medals wasn’t interesting, but I wanted more. I get it, maybe she wanted to maintain some privacy, but then, why write a book?

Much time was spent on the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where Miller came out of nowhere to upset U.S. favorite Kim Zemeskal and every other gymnast with five medals at those games. And then, of course, Shannon discusses her time as part of the Magnificent Seven gymnasts who won team gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. I had forgotten that in 2000., Miller had even made a half-hearted attempt to make the United States Olympic team heading to Sydney. But age and injuries had taken their toll and she took a tumble on the vault at the Olympic trials and decided to withdraw.

Shannon spends little time discussing her first marriage. In fact, if you’re not paying attention closely, you may miss it entirely. Then Miller walks us through her college and law school career, as well as meeting her second husband, John, ultimately marrying him in 2008.

Shannon was diagnosed with germ cell ovarian cancer in 2011, a month after doctors removed a cyst from one of her ovaries. She spent some time discussing how, as many young moms do, she had stopped paying attention to her body and it’s cues. It’s a miracle the doctors caught the cancer when they did, because statistics show that 50% of those diagnosed with ovarian cancer die from the disease. She went through three cycles of chemo and was declared cancer-free a year later.

Miller spends the last part of her book discussing her current businesses, and the way it’s written makes it feel more like a marketing book than a memoir. My guess is that’s why I graded the book so low when I originally read it. Combatting childhood obesity is a good cause, and it’s something Shannon has dedicated her philanthropic pursuits to.

This is the 53rd Audiobook I’ve listened to as part of my 2021 Audiobook Challenge.

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