It’s not a surprise that Jordan Chiles turned into an excellent athlete. After all, she’s named after one of the greatest basketball players that ever lived.
Chiles, a 20-year-old gymnast making her Olympic debut, was named after Michael Jordan, a choice for which she credits her mother.
“She is literally in love with sports,” Chiles said of her mother in an interview with KOIN’s AJ McCord.
As such, it’s fitting that Chiles was able to qualify for the Olympic Games. Now, she’ll have a chance to earn an Olympic gold medal like her namesake did in 1984 and 1992.
MORE: Meet the Simone Biles-led U.S. women’s gymnastics team
Jordan Chiles contemplated quitting gymnastics
The road to Tokyo wasn’t an easy one for Chiles. In fact, in 2018, it seemed nearly unattainable, and Chiles wasn’t sure if she wanted to continue pursuing her Olympic dream.
“I just wasn’t in the right mindset,” Chiles said, per NBC Sports. “I didn’t know if I wanted to do gymnastics anymore… I would cry and cry and cry, and nobody knew.”
As Chiles contemplated her future, so did her longtime coach Dimitri Taskov. After Chiles finished 11th in the all-around competition at the 2018 U.S. Championships, he encouraged her to make a coaching change and train with other elite-level gymnasts.
“He did so much for me,” Chiles said of Taskov. “But he knew I needed a change, and he saw that I could be more than what I was.”
And so, Chiles decided to move to Spring, Texas in 2018 to train at the World Champions Centre alongside her close friend, Simone Biles.
How new coaches, working with Simone Biles helped Chiles
The change of scenery helped to spark Chiles. In particular, working with Laurent and Cecile Landi helped her to regain form and morph into one of the world’s top gymnasts.
“Laurent and Cecile brought back the love of the sport for me — because it was gone,” Chiles said of her coaches. “They’ve given me so much encouragement. I didn’t get that too much in the past. I just thank them all the time.”
Chiles also felt some freedom from the strict, all-work environment she had previously been in this. And she credits Biles with teaching her this lesson.
“I discovered that gymnastics doesn’t always have to be about strictness and being so hard on yourself and having so much doubt,” Chiles told the New York Times. “I actually realized this when I saw Simone compete. She looks like she’s having fun out there, laughing and giggling, and doesn’t look stressed or tired. I was like, ‘You know, I’m going to try that one of these days and see how it turns out.’”
So far, Chiles’ new outlook on gymnastics has improved her performance. She won the first women’s all-around Winter Cup title in Feb. 2021 before finishing second behind Biles in the May U.S. Classic. Her strong all-around game helped her earn the third-place finish at the 2021 U.S. Olympic trials.
Chiles’ top-four finish in each of the four events didn’t quite get her an automatic qualifying spot into the Summer Games. Suni Lee just edged her out. Still, Chiles was a shoo-in pick for the four-woman squad may be the second-strongest all-around gymnast on the roster. After all, she has effectively executed all 24 of her routines this year without a major mistake.
But Chiles doesn’t care about where she ranks on the team. She’s just happy to be going to Tokyo alongside her good friend Biles.
“It was honestly the most amazing feeling of my life,” Chiles said on “The Today Show” per Pop Sugar.
And of Biles: “Having her by my side 24/7 and giving me encouraging words every day definitely helped, and it was very motivational.”
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