Jordan Chiles Took A Leap Of Faith And Landed On Her Feet

“Everything has changed in my life after the Olympics.”

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As a world-class Olympic gymnast, 20-year-old Jordan Chiles knows how to keep her head in the clouds and feet on the ground, and vice versa. But in July 2021, when she stepped up to the plate to sub in for Simone Biles during the team final at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, her world was truly turned upside down. “I kind of blacked out ’cause I was so in awe and in shock [about what] I was going through,” she says in an interview with Elite Daily. She calls the moment one of the most “devastating” things she’s ever been through. “I never thought I would have to do it in my whole entire lifetime, but she’s my friend. She’s literally one of the people I look up to.” While Chiles admits the task was difficult, she says, thinking of Biles, “I want to prove to you that I am good for it,” adding, “I’m going to make you proud.” And Chiles didn’t just prove it to her teammates — she proved it to herself, helping the team win the silver medal.

After earning that first Olympic medal alongside her teammates — Sunisa Lee, Grace McCallum, and Simone Biles — Chiles faces yet another critical life milestone: college life. In November 2018, Chiles signed a letter of intent to start school in the fall at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), with her admission deferred until after the Tokyo Olympics. In December 2021, the athlete joined the UCLA Bruins Women’s gymnastics team and made her debut in January 2022. While she’s only been there for a few months, she’s already making her mark. On Feb. 4, Chiles quite literally floored the competition by scoring a perfect 10 against Utah in a meet.

The performance, set to a hip-hop medley including Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts,” went viral. “I just wanted to go out there and have fun on the floor,” Chiles says. “I was just hoping I was going to hit my routine, but getting a perfect 10 out of it definitely felt amazing.”

Her performance was so thrilling, even Lizzo herself congratulated her over Twitter. “MAKING BLACK HISTORY IN BLACK HISTORY MONTH! YESSS @ChilesJordan,” the singer wrote to Chiles in a Feb. 5 post. “u are a SUPERSTAR.”

When she saw Lizzo’s congrats, Chiles was astonished. “I was in awe. I literally could not stop staring at my phone,” she says. “For Lizzo to say that I am an inspiration is pretty cool ’cause I look at her as an inspiration as well,” she added. “Knowing that she retweeted my floor routine was really cool.”

Now, Chiles lives the (relatively) normal life of a college athlete. She sums her daily grind up in three words: “Practice, practice, practice.” She wakes up in the morning in her own apartment, eats breakfast, heads to the gym to practice for around three hours, then has lunch, and attends classes in the afternoon. She’s even changed her mind on her major a couple of times: from zoology to marine biology to business economics. Still, Chiles is getting accustomed to her new routine. “Everything has changed in my life after the Olympics,” she says.

In addition to practice and classes, she still has her gymnastics career to handle — which is one reason why she decided to change her major to business economics. This way, she can take advantage of any opportunity that comes her way, whether it’s related to gymnastics or not. “As a business owner [in the business] of myself, I wanted to pursue something even better,” she says. “I know some tactics of being a businessperson, but you can never have enough information to pursue something that you want to make [happen].”

“Right now, my gymnastics is literally my platform,” she says. But in the future, things might be different. “‘Normal life’ — hey, who knows what’s going to happen? I can be in movies, I can do this, I can do that. But it all just comes down to how I want to put myself out there.”

After the Olympic stage, Chiles says representing UCLA in gymnastics allows her the space she needs to express herself. “I did have fun on the international side, but this is me showing my personality more and being who I am,” she says. She loves being a part of a team, especially since the lower-pressure college atmosphere gives her more room to enjoy herself. “I just wanted to go out there and have fun on the floor because UCLA is very known for their floor routines and, just, having a party,” she adds. “One of my teammates, before [I performed], she had told me, ‘Go have a party.’ And I told her I'm going to be the host of that party.”

Being able to enjoy herself on the competition floor is one of the best parts about competing on the collegiate level, she says. “Just being with the girls, you know, we all have a different spark in us.” For Chiles, having fun alongside her teammates are the memories she’ll cherish most. “I’m not just going out there and representing myself,” she says. For her, “these memories are going to be [about being] a team,” not being an individual competitor.

“In the international world of gymnastics, the elite side, it’s definitely different,” Chiles explains of her path to the Tokyo Olympics. “We’re competing [as individuals] before we make an Olympic team.” Until she earned her spot on Team USA, the other gymnasts were technically her opponents, making competitions more stressful than fun.

Still, the bond between her and her Olympic teammates during the Tokyo Summer Games was unbreakable. “A lesson I took from [the Olympics] is trust,” she says, referring to the moment she had to fill in for Biles. “Stepping into somebody’s shoes — as huge as [Simone’s] — was just mind-blowing,” Chiles added. “But, you know, at the end of the day, I was doing it for her, and I wanted to continue to push for the team.” In her eyes, the silver medal Team USA earned in the team final isn’t just a silver medal — it’s a symbol of strength and trust between her and her teammates. Now, when competing at the college level for UCLA, Chiles’ experience at the Olympics reminds her to appreciate her teammates that much more.

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But while Chiles knows it’s important to be there for others, she also understands how critical it is to be there for herself. “Mental health is a huge thing,” she says, noting how it’s important to not push yourself so hard that you reach a burnout stage. “Take it day by day, step by step, because you’re more important to yourself than you are to your sport or to whatever you’re doing.” Aside from the occasional retail therapy shopping trip with friends, Chiles takes care of her mental health by setting realistic expectations for herself as a student and an athlete.

“At the end of the day, I’m doing [gymnastics] for myself. I’m not doing it for others,” she says. “I want to make sure that I can do everything that I’m capable of doing. I don’t want to rush into anything. I don’t want to feel some type of way knowing that I did the wrong thing. So I’m kind of just taking it by my time and not others.”

When it comes to the impact she wants to have — in gymnastics and beyond — Chiles says she wants to become the kind of hero she always looked up to as a little girl. “I still want to be that Black athlete that inspires other Black athletes,” she says. “So [to] all those little Black girls out there, I want to say, ‘Embrace your beauty.’” She encourages little girls like she was to believe in the power of their dreams. “Your dreams can be very powerful if you really put your mind to them,” she says. “Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.”

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