Jordan Chiles qualifies for Tokyo, 3 years after nearly quitting gymnastics (video)


On Sunday night at 2021 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials, Jordan Chiles finished third and was selected to represent the U.S. at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

Making the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team has been a long-term dream for Chiles, 20, who grew up in Vancouver, Washington.

“When I watched the 2008 Olympics, I knew I wanted to be an Olympian,” Chiles told On Her Turf last month. “But I didn’t really understand the concept of how to do that.”

Understandable, given that in 2008, Chiles was just seven and had only started taking gymnastics classes months earlier.

Between the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics, Chiles progressed through the levels (skipping six and eight), and turned elite at age 11.

Along the way, Chiles had experiences she now realizes aren’t the norm for some gymnasts. “I was able to go to school dances because I went to public school,” she said. “That’s an experience I wanted to have.”

Chiles was four months too young to compete at Olympic Trials in 2016, but the then 15-year-old was in the stands at the SAP Center in San Jose, California.

When the U.S. roster was named, “I was crying in my seat,” Chiles said. “And I don’t cry just to cry. Like, I was just bawling my eyes out.”

Chiles left the arena asking, “When is it my turn? I had to wait four more years.”

Make that five years, thanks to the one-year postponement of the Olympics.

But halfway through the current Olympic cycle, Chiles’ Olympic dream didn’t feel dreamlike anymore. In 2018, Chiles’ second year as a senior, it became clear something wasn’t working.

“I just wasn’t in the right mindset,” Chiles explained in May. “I didn’t know if I wanted to do gymnastics anymore… I would cry and cry and cry, and nobody knew.”

Her longtime coach, Dimitri Taskov, realized something needed to change.

After Chiles finished 11th in the all-around at U.S. Championships, Taskov told Chiles that she needed more than what he could offer.

“He did so much for me,” Chiles said. “But he knew I needed a change, and he saw that I could be more than what I was.

“I talked to my family, I talked to friends. I talked to Simone [Biles] – she helped me out a lot,” Chiles said. “I just needed to figure out what I needed to do with myself.”

By the end of 2018, Chiles made her choice. Just days after graduating from high school, she moved to Spring, Texas, in order to train at World Champions Centre, the gym owned by Biles’ family.

Chiles credits her new coaches, Laurent and Cecile Landi, with her comeback.

“Laurent and Cecile brought back the love of the sport for me – because it was gone,” she said of her new coaches. “They’ve given my so much encouragement. I didn’t get that too much in the past. I just thank them all the time.”

The new training environment also gave Chiles a fresh perspective on the experience she had left behind. “I don’t think if I was still in that strict-strict-strict environment, I would be where I am right now,” Chiles explained. “My body would have just shut off.”

Chiles’ success at U.S. Olympic Trials was no surprise. Since the beginning of 2020, Chiles has been the most consistent American gymnast. (Yes, even more consistent than Biles, who fell off beam on night two of U.S. Olympic Trials.) Starting at the 2020 Winter Cup in February, which Chiles won, she has hit every single routine, going 24 for 24.

The four-person U.S. women’s gymnastics team consists of Biles, Suni Lee, Chiles, and Grace McCallum. MyKayla Skinner was selected for the individual spot, while Jade Carey earned an individual spot by name via the 2018-20 Apparatus World Cup Series. (For more on how qualification/selection for the U.S. Olympic women’s gymnastics team worked, read this.)

U.S. OLYMPIC WOMEN’S GYMNASTICS ROSTER: Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee highlight six U.S. women’s gymnasts for Tokyo Olympics

This story will continue to be updated. 

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC