SITTING DOWN WITH SHANNON MILLER

Most people know Shannon Miller as the gymnast who won a silver medal at the last Olympics: Hers was the highest "all-around competition" finish by an American woman at a non-boycotted Games. So far in her gymnastics career of 10 years, she has scored two perfect 10s - both on the balance beam, her favorite event.

The petite 15-year-old starts warming up this day by lying down in a Russian split as comfortably as someone else might sit cross-legged.

Dressed in blue sweat pants and a long T-shirt, she flashes a quick smile when she says that a lot of people think she must be very shy. "I'm not that shy in person," she says.

These days Shannon is traveling around the United States, starring in the 1992 Tour of Olympic and World Champion gymnasts. "There's not a lot of pressure," she explains: "You're doing the same routines, but there aren't judges." She says she's looking forward to getting to know the other gymnasts on the tour, and she likes the idea that the tour will put her in touch with many of her fans.

Her plan is to keep doing what she's been doing all along: her best at gymnastics.

During the tour, she will be joined by her coach, Steve Nunno, and a tutor "to help keep up," says Shannon, a ninth-grader who maintains a 4.0 grade point average and is a member of the Oklahoma and National Honor Society.

It may come as no surprise that, as someone who practices precision every day, Shannon's favorite subject is math. Her least favorite subject is English. With English, "there's always an exception," she says. "Math is set in stone: Two plus two is always four."

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