Olympic Silver Medalist Jordan Chiles Nearly Quit Gymnastics — Until BFF Simone Biles Stepped In
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The Olympics may have ended in July, but that doesn’t mean star gymnast Jordan Chiles is getting much rest. The 20-year-old, who won a silver medal with the U.S. women’s team in Tokyo, is still on the move, but this time, without her teammates.

“I’ve been traveling a lot,” she tells ESSENCE. “Going from New York to LA, like back to New York, back to LA, to Texas. There’s just been a lot of different experiences that I’ve been doing to put myself out there, and I’ve been enjoying it a lot.”

In addition to modeling at New York Fashion Week and securing a partnership with the Curls brand, another experience Chiles is excited about is is taking part in the upcoming Gold Over America Tour. Put together by her best friend and the G.O.A.T., Simone Biles, the tour (which also spells out G.O.A.T.) is set to celebrate the talents of past and present Olympic gymnasts while also inspiring the next generation of girls. It will have a little bit of everything, from flips and tricks to music, spoken word and interactions with fans via social media. Chiles describes it as a something like “a pop concert.”

The tour, which begins on Tuesday, September 21 in Tucson, Arizona, will reunite Chiles with her teammates, including BFF Biles.

Claire McAdams

“We have such an amazing bond. I wish I can explain it to you, but I don’t even know how our bond is so strong,” she says. “I think we bring different things out of each other. I bring the young self out of her. I bring that, ‘Ooh, let’s vibe and go have fun.’ And then she brings out the motivation, and the encouragement, and the support.”

“I can go to her for anything,” she adds. “She’s also like a sister to me, and sometimes like a mom. So she’s like a three in one.”

Chiles says that she had to switch roles and be there for Biles when the star’s wellness took a hit in Tokyo. When the team captain chose to sit out most of her scheduled competitions to focus on her mental health, the decision created quite the debate Stateside. But in Tokyo, the four-time gold medalist received nothing but love from her best friend.

“I think just me supporting her in a way that she supports me, helped her. And I think even just the team, us being able to go out there and show what we’re capable of doing, was a huge thing,” she says of the girls winning silver in the team competition. “And not only did we do what we did, but she came back and helped us.”

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Biles provided her with a similar sort of encouragement when she was going through her own struggles and close to giving up on gymnastics. A former coach, whom Chiles says was verbally abusive, left her feeling like she was running into nothing but walls in her career. It wasn’t until she left her home state of Oregon to train in Texas with Biles at her insistence that she felt she could finally make things happen for herself.

“Simone and my coaches now were the ones that supported me. They’ve always supported me,” she says. “In 2018, that’s when I went off to Texas and I’ve been here ever since. And that’s when I realized like, ‘Oh my goodness, somebody that I look up to is supporting me in a way that I never had in the past.’ And I think that’s what encouraged me, and I think that’s what just helped me in a way to where I was like, ‘Okay, I can actually do this, and I can move forward. And I can go and show who Jordan is and actually become somebody.'”

Nowadays, the sky is the limit. Chiles is set to start college, attending UCLA this fall and competing as part of their well-known women’s gymnastics program in the hopes of helping them win an NCAA Championship. She is also setting her sights on training for the 2022 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships and if all works out, the 2024 Olympics.

“I just want to go out there and just have fun again, like actually have fun and do gymnastics how I’ve been doing gymnastics,” she says. “So I think for me, it’d just be more of another accomplishment and an experience that’d be really, really cool to do.”

In the meantime, she’s preparing for the Gold Over America Tour, and continuing to be blown away by the chance to make all of her dreams come true.

“I’ve always, always, always, always wanted to go on a tour like an artist,” she says of the Gold Over America moment. “I thought it was so cool. Like, ‘Oh my gosh, they’re touring the country and going to perform and do what they love in front of a million people.’ And I’ve always wanted to do that. And so when I got this opportunity, I was just like, ‘These are my musician days. This is my time.'”

It’s definitely her time, and Chiles is just getting started.