In the confines of the gymnastics arena, Bobby Miller can do anything.
He can effortlessly soar through the air while twisting and turning. He can manipulate his body with just his arms, and he seemingly enjoys spending more time upside down than right side up.
This is the thrill he gets from competing in gymnastics.
“I like being able to do stuff that not everyone can do,” Miller said. “Not many people know what it’s like to be able to fly through the air and be in control.”
Then he smiled and added, “I like defying gravity.”
An Edmonds resident now in his 10th year of competition, Miller, 16, picked up gymnastics at a young age.
“I remember when I was a kid I spent a lot of time upside down,” Miller said. “I liked to stand on my head or try to do handstands, and I liked rolling around and doing somersaults. My parents put me in a recreational gymnastics class and I just kept going from there.”
Miller recently became the 2007 regional all-around boys gymnastics champion with an overall score of 45.550. He placed first in the parallel bars and high bar events with scores of 8.300 and 6.800, respectively. The parallel bars, Miller says, is his best and favorite event.
“I think it suits me because of the way I’m built,” Miller said. “I enjoy the swing and strength aspects of that event, and the techniques come pretty natural to me.”
Even with his success, Miller, like most athletes in any given sport, has gone through his share of struggles.
He labored through the 2005 and 2006 Junior Olympic National meets with disappointing finishes. In 2007, he was able to place 160th out of 300 competitors, but even then he struggled with his best event, the parallel bars. Had he done as well on the parallel bars at nationals as he did at regionals, Miller would have placed fourth.
According to Bob Miller, Bobby’s father, it is Bobby’s perseverance that separates him from the average athlete.
“It isn’t Bobby’s style to figure something out overnight and then move on right away,” Bob Miller said. “He keeps at it and will work on what he needs to improve on a little bit every day.
“The flash-in-the-pan looks great and all, but if you don’t push through adversity and injuries, like Bobby has done, it won’t pay off in the end.”
It is easy to see this determination when considering that Bobby Miller won the regional title without having trained for more than two weeks because of a dislocation in the connection of the breastbone to the collarbone. A dislocation of this joint is extremely painful and troublesome for a sport like gymnastics that demands upper-body strength and flexibility in the shoulders.
“I actually didn’t decide on going to the regional meet until the day before,” Bobby Miller said. “I hadn’t trained for two weeks, but at the point, I felt pretty good.”
So he went to the event in Boise, Idaho, and won.
“Bobby seems to know where his limits are,” Bob Miller said. “He’ll push the line when he has to, but he’ll never cross it if he knows it’s going to hurt him in the long run.”
Bobby Miller, a home-schooled student, plans to attend Edmonds Community College for the next two years in the Running Start program. The four-year colleges he is considering include Stanford and the University of Michigan.
Bobby Miller says he aspires to compete in the World Championships in at least one event and qualify for the Olympics. Long term, he knows that coaching is a distinct possibility.
“It’s hard to get out of the world (of gymnastics) once you’re in it for so long,” he said.
Yu Nakayama is a student in the University of Washington Department of Communication News Laboratory.