When Simone Biles suddenly pulled out of the team final after a vault that went awry, her teammate Jordan Chiles was thrust into the clutch.
Chiles, 20, had been slated to compete for Team USA in just two events in the team final: vault and floor. But with Biles out of the competition, she was suddenly competing on the balance beam and uneven bars too.
Here’s what to know about Jordan Chiles.
She’s named after Michael Jordan
Chiles grew up in Vancouver, Wash., the youngest of five children. Her mother named her for basketball legend Michael Jordan, and her boundless energy drove her parents to enroll her in gymnastics classes.
By age 11, she was competing at the elite level — for years the only such gymnast in Washington state. In 2014, she won the U.S. Classic at the junior level.
Three years ago, she was ready to quit
By 2018, Chiles was weary of the sport. She’d been passed over for international meets, and had a feeling of being stalled out.
Then Simone Biles had an idea: Chiles should move to Texas and train alongside Biles at the gym she had started there. At Biles’ gym, World Champions Centre, she would be coached by Cecile and Laurent Landi, who were known for being skilled coaches who also understood the need for balance in athletes’ lives and actually listened to what they had to say.
So Chiles finished high school and took Biles up on her offer, moving her life and training to Spring, Texas — and the two became like sisters.
The delayed Olympics gave Chiles time to prepare
Chiles wasn’t selected for the 2019 World Championships. But her star within U.S. gymnastics began rising quickly.
She had surgery on her wrist in late 2019, which wouldn’t have given her much time before the 2020 Tokyo Games. With the Olympics delayed to 2021, Chiles had time not only to heal, but to grow into the next phase of her gymnastics career.
She also started her own apparel company, Melanin Drip Clothing Co., “to encourage others to LOVE and be PROUD of every inch of themselves.”
At the Olympic Trials a month ago, Chiles took third – and just like that, she was bound for the Olympics, one of the four who would compete in the team event for the U.S.
Team USA takes silver
For the U.S. squad, a fairytale ending of a miraculous gold medal without Biles was not to be.
Chiles nailed her routines on the bars and beam. But on the floor, Team USA’s final rotation, Chiles’ feet slipped out from under her on her third tumbling pass, causing her to fall.
Biles’ weak vault in the first rotation had put the U.S. more than a point behind Russia from the start, and the Americans’ deficit grew to more than three points by the end of the floor routines.
It was a strange and disconcerting scene: the world’s best gymnast watching from the sidelines in a warmup suit. The U.S. team would be taking home silver.
And after a less-than-her-best performance during qualifications, Chiles didn’t qualify for the all-around competition or the event finals. So for her, the Olympic dream has come to an end — silver medal in hand.