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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | TRACK AND FIELD

A Chip Off the Old Starting Block

Relays: Inger Miller follows in footsteps of her father, Lennox, by winning gold medal in 400-meter relay.

August 04, 1996|LISA DILLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ATLANTA — The Miller house now has a complete set of Olympic medals--gold, silver and bronze--since 24-year-old Inger Miller of Altadena added the final piece to the family collection Saturday night.

She wasn't even born when her father, Lennox Miller, was the silver medalist in the 100 meters for Jamaica at the 1968 Olympics, and was only a few weeks old when he added the second medal, placing third in 1972 in the 100.

Lennox Miller was sitting in Olympic Stadium when Miller stood on the podium with a gold medal around her neck as a member of the U.S. women's 400-meter relay team. Miller, who ran the third leg of the relay, and teammates Chryste Gaines, Gail Devers and Gwen Torrence easily won in 41.95 seconds. The Bahamas was second in 42.14 and Jamaica took the bronze in 42.24.

It is the first time in Olympic track and field history that a father and daughter have both won medals, according to officials.

"Is it? I didn't know that," said Miller, between giggles. "That's great. It's exhilarating. It's unbelievable. I don't think it's going to sink in until tonight--until I take a shower. My voice is gone from screaming."

Miller, a 1995 graduate of USC in biological science, is coached by her father and Don Quarrie, the 1976 gold medalist in the 200. Her father's running past was rarely mentioned at home, though.

"We'd have family friends over and we'd watch videos," Miller said. "And we'd say, 'Oh my God, that's Dad. Look at his hair.' "

Lennox and Inger hugged after the race, but she already knew what the coaches would say about the relay, more specifically, the handoffs.

"All of us had terrible handoffs," she said. "Every single handoff was terrible. We ran 41.9-something with terrible handoffs. If we had good handoffs, we would have set the world record [it's 41.37]. I left a little bit too early when I ran up on Gwen. I got excited.

"Coaches are going to say, 'All right, but you guys . . .' "

Miller previously finished fourth at the Olympics in the 200 meters, and had qualified for the event after beating Torrence in a photo finish at the trials. The atmosphere around the relay team was much more relaxed, she said.

"We had a good time on the bus on the way over," Miller said. "Talking about women's stuff, feminine stuff. So yeah, we all work well as a team. It's a lot easier when there's others out there encouraging you."

Miller almost didn't get the chance to sprint for a medal, of any color, when she miraculously escaped serious injury after her sport-utility vehicle flipped over three times on the 605 Freeway in early May. She was heading home from a track meet in Irvine and swerved to avoid something in the road.

The vehicle was totaled and she briefly lost consciousness. Miller was hospitalized for observation but needed only a few stitches in her shoulder and was back on the track two days later.

The close call made Saturday much sweeter.

"I have a gold medal. How many people can say that?" she said. "During the whole thing, I was praying I wouldn't die. It was amazing I didn't.

"Everything in my car was on the freeway. The thing about it is how lucky I am. I had running blocks on the freeway. Those could have hit me in the head when I was turning over. Every last thing was on the freeway. Even a spare tire."

Then Miller was pulled away from reporters for the medal ceremony and was eager to see a gold medal up close.

"I want to see what it looks like," she said. "I've seen a silver and a bronze. I think we'll put them together with my dad's."

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