PORTLAND, Oregon (KOIN) – If Jordan Chiles takes her place on the floor during the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Tests, she will not be wearing the Wonder Woman jersey that made the headlines in the 2018 theme of the Marvel superhero movie Twitter in Fire started.
Chiles doesn’t have to play a superhero; she has become one.
The 20-year-old from Vancouver, Washington, returned to the elite gymnastics scene earlier this year at the Winter Cup after undergoing wrist surgery in October 2019. She backed this up with a third place in the All Around at the US National Championships in early June, half a tenth behind Suni Lee and about five points behind gold medal favorite Simone Biles.
The first two winners at the Olympic Games this weekend will automatically get a place in Tokyo, then a committee will select which gymnasts will occupy the remaining two places and select the substitute team.
The years between her viral Wonder Woman routine and now have been filled with the challenges and adversity it takes to go from being a character in a story to being a superhero in your own right.
In 2017, Chiles was the only elite female gymnast in Washington state. She worked with a trainer who she says couldn’t train her, which sometimes made it unsafe to learn and try out the gravity-defying skills necessary to make it as an elite gymnast.
“It was very stressful,” Chiles remembers the week before the trials. “I doubted myself very much, had the feeling that I didn’t want to be there. I just felt like things weren’t the way they should be. ”
In the story arc of Chile’s story, this is the moment when the audience would sit on the edge of the seat and hold their breath. Here, Chile’s history could have gone two ways – giving up the Olympic dream and taking her scholarship to UCLA. This path offered the chance to leave the intensity and exertion of elite gymnastics behind and win a gym full of sisters to be part of the team she so longed for.
“I didn’t think I was coming back,” said Chiles. “I absolutely didn’t think I could come back.”
The second path felt as elusive as a mirage in a desert; another chance to achieve her Olympic dream by moving across the country and joining the World Champions Center, the Biles family gym in Texas. Put everything on the line all over again.
“There were a lot of encouraging words from people who have always been behind my trip,” said Chiles. “They told me I could do anything I imagine. Then everything began to slide as it should be. ”
Chiles switched to WCC and not only won Biles herself the girlfriend she calls “ride or-die”, but also a gym full of people reminding her that the ending has yet to be written and that it is she who does it may write.
This leap of faith turned out to be their defining moment. Since the move, Chile has flourished and even she has found it difficult to put into words what it is about Biles and the World Champions Center that makes it a place where so many gymnasts thrive.
“The energy that runs through the entire gym, from the people at the front desk to the young kids doing the recreational classes… it’s just the atmosphere and the energy it gives off in a way that makes everyone feel welcome, everyone will feel like you have something inside you to present, it’s just different. It’s completely different. “
And Chiles is a very different person going to the Olympics than the one who almost gave up the sport a few years ago.
“I feel better prepared than I was on the way there [National Championships]“Said Chiles. “I know that may seem strange, but the championship was a little nerve-wracking because I had to somehow prove that I can still be consistent and make it to the stages at the same time.”
“I got this little nervous thing out of me so when I go to exams I get excited, I’m ready, I’m prepared. So whatever the result is, whatever the result is. ”
Giving up control while succeeding in a sport that demands so much of you is not easy.
“I’ve come to a place where I just think, ‘Look, I’m just out there doing what I love and for myself’ because I can’t do anything with what happens in the end.”
Chiles hopes her end will be a place on Team USA., She has invested the years, sweat and tears to get to this point and if she joins the Olympians who came before her, it won’t be the “next” everyone, it will be the best version of Jordan Chiles.
“People told me: ‘You will be next’ [Biles]… “But my journey is very different from yours. When people tell me I am like this, ‘You can all tell me this, but I’ll be the next Jordan and I’ll be the next Jordan who in some ways has never reached my potential … I’m not the best Jordan.'”
“So in my world, I’m the next Jordan from Chile. I’m the next girl who hasn’t done anything in her life and then suddenly forms an Olympic team. “
“This version of Jordan Chiles is someone who will have fun, go out with no regrets, and finally say they did.”
If Chile beat Team USA and rose to the medal in Tokyo, many will call it their heroic moment, but that really is the happy ending. Her heroic moments happened along the way every time she decided to bet on herself and be her own superhero.