Jordan Chiles’ gymnastics journey plays out in children’s book

Jordan Chiles
Courtesy Gina Chiles

Jordan Chiles has been the breakout American gymnast of 2021 and, with two more strong meets this month, will likely be headed to Tokyo.

She won the Winter Cup all-around in February, the first significant domestic meet in nearly one year. She finished second to training partner Simone Biles at last month’s U.S. Classic, the tune-up for this week’s national championships and the U.S. Olympic Trials in three weeks.

Chiles, 20, has never competed at the world championships and moved 1,800 miles in the middle of the Olympic cycle. She twice seriously considered dropping down from elite gymnastics and giving up on the Games.

It would be an unusual road to Tokyo. She could be the second U.S. woman in the last 30 years to compete at an Olympics without prior world championships experience or a top-three finish in a U.S. junior all-around. (Tasha Schwikert did so at the 2000 Olympics, an alternate called up after Morgan White was injured.)

It’s also a path already laid out: in a book available on Amazon.

Chiles’ mom, Gina, is the author of “Dream Big Little Chick” about her fifth and youngest child. She wrote it in 2018 and published it in February 2020, just before the Olympics were postponed by one year. Gina’s daughter-in-law Megan illustrated.

“This is a story about a family of chicks who patiently wait for their new family member to arrive,” the Amazon description reads. “Little Chick is finally born and begins to dream herself. She begins her life journey and wonders what she will become. After trying many different things Little Chick decides that she wants to become a high-flying gymnast and quickly sets her focus on the Animal Olympics.”

Gina, a senior pastor at According to His Word Worship Center in Vancouver, Washington, always wanted to become an author. More so recently, to read her work to her six grandchildren.

“It was based on Jordan, but I was really thinking of little kids that had their own dream,” Gina said. “Especially when things didn’t always seem like it could happen.”

MORE: U.S. Gymnastics Championships broadcast schedule

Jordan Chiles Book

Before this year’s success, Chiles’ gymnastics career was defined by challenges.

She debuted as a senior elite gymnast in 2017 and placed second in the all-around at the U.S. Championships — where she created gymternet buzz for a head-spinning balance beam ad-lib. But, after a closed-doors selection camp competition, Chiles was named a non-traveling alternate to the four-woman worlds team.

The next year, Chiles fell to 11th at the U.S. Championships (while wearing a Wonder Woman leotard) and weighed dropping out of elite gymnastics. She conversed with Biles, who suggested Chiles move to the Biles family-owned gym in Texas.

Chiles accepted the offer and, after graduating high school in 2019, moved into a two-bedroom apartment a short drive from the World Champions Centre. Her mom came, too.

Chiles placed sixth at the 2019 U.S. Championships and did not make the traveling world championships team of five (plus an alternate) after a selection camp. Two weeks later, she underwent left wrist surgery to repair torn cartilage.

When the Olympics were postponed, it meant another group of teens met the Olympic age minimum in 2021, further crowding the world’s deepest nation in women’s artistic gymnastics.

Chiles thought again about giving up on the Olympics. She could always enroll at UCLA on a gymnastics scholarship in fall 2020 rather than defer for a second year.

On April 15, 2020, Chiles celebrated her 19th birthday and confided in Biles that she decided to keep going for the Olympics.

“I knew I had a job to finish,” she said.

Later that night, she woke her mom at 2 a.m. to share the news.

“She’s literally the life of me. I love her to death,” Chiles said. “She’s my best friend. I can’t thank her enough for everything that she’s done for me and the love and support that she’s given is 1,000 percent out of this world.”

The family started calling Chiles by the nickname “Chick” during her T-ball days. When she wore a batting helmet, Chiles reminded them of the “Chicken Little” cartoon character.

Chiles had no shortage of activities as a Pacific Northwest kid, including dance and track. In baseball, she could smack a home run but also picked daisies and did cartwheels when put in the outfield.

She started recreational gymnastics around age 6, was approached after one class to try out for the pre-team, skipped two levels and turned elite at 11.

In 2014, a braces-wearing Chiles won the U.S. Classic junior all-around just after turning 13. Biles won the senior all-around at the same meet, and they posed for pictures together. “Biles and Chiles” was born.

Chiles, while still on the junior level, attended the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials and bawled at the sight of Biles and others becoming Olympians. “I was ready for my turn,” she said.

It took five years. Chiles endured the personal trials of 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 and made it to the Winter Cup in February. “I was known as the underdog,” she said at the meet in Indianapolis.

None of the 2019 World Championships team members competed in the all-around at Winter Cup, but Chiles’ winning score of 57.05 would have placed second to Biles on both days of the last U.S. Championships in 2019.

“People finally know who I am,” Chiles said. “I don’t know any gymnast that … all of a sudden, it’s like, oh, whoa, where did she come from?”

Also important for her Olympic hopes: U.S. high-performance team coordinator Tom Forster‘s assessment.

“Everybody’s known that Jordan has tremendous potential to be extremely good and score very well internationally,” said Forster, one of three voting members on the Olympic team selection committee. “She’s had some unfortunate circumstances the last couple years where she can’t quite show what she’s really capable of.”

“Dream Big Little Chick” was also inspired by a phrase that Chiles often quoted as a child — “Believe in the power of your dreams.” It’s written in a cloud on the back cover.

Chiles was flattered when her mom told her about the story and called it “a pretty cool little book.” Tears trickled when Gina read it in front of the family for the first time.

“I was crying more so [because] she accomplished something that she has always wanted to do,” Chiles said.

Chiles will clinch a spot on the team for Tokyo if she places in the top two in the all-around at the Olympic Trials in three weeks.

Three more women are in line to be chosen by the committee after Trials. Chiles said her elite career will be complete after this season, and she’ll join the UCLA Bruins, whether this summer’s story ends in Tokyo or not.

“The moment has come, and your dream is in sight,” the book ends. “All the hoping and praying with all of your might. Show what you can do, believe what you can be. You dreamed big Little Chick, you dreamed bigger than me.”

On Her Turf editor Alex Azzi and NBC Sports researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

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Summer McIntosh breaks 400m individual medley world record, extends historic week

Summer McIntosh

Canadian swimmer Summer McIntosh broke her second world record this week, lowering the 400m individual medley mark on Saturday.

McIntosh, a 16-year-old who trains in Sarasota, Florida, clocked 4 minutes, 25.87 seconds at the Canadian Championships in Toronto.

She took down Hungarian Katinka Hosszu‘s world record of 4:26.36 from the 2016 Rio Olympics. Before Saturday, McIntosh had the fourth-fastest time in history of 4:28.61.

“It’s always nice to set world records,” McIntosh said.

On Tuesday, McIntosh broke the 400m freestyle world record, becoming the youngest swimmer to break a world record in an individual Olympic event since Katie Ledecky in 2013.

McIntosh also this week became the fourth-fastest woman in history in the 200m individual medley and the eighth-fastest woman in history in the 200m butterfly.

In each of her four races this week, she also broke the world junior record as the fastest woman in history under the age of 19.

She is entered to swim the 200m free on the meet’s final day on Sunday. She is already the eighth-fastest woman in history in that event.

McIntosh, whose mom swam the 1984 Olympic 200m fly and whose sister competed at last week’s world figure skating championships, placed fourth in the Tokyo Olympic 400m free at age 14.

Last summer, she won the 200m fly and 400m IM at the world championships, becoming the youngest individual world champion since 2011.

This summer, she could be at the center of a showdown in the 400m free at the world championships with reigning world champion Ledecky and reigning Olympic champion Ariarne Titmus of Australia. They are the three fastest women in history in the event.

Around age 7, McIntosh transcribed Ledecky quotes and put them on her wall.

MORE: McIntosh chose swimming and became Canada’s big splash

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Hilary Knight leads new-look U.S. women’s hockey roster for world championship

Hilary Knight

Hilary Knight headlines a U.S. women’s hockey roster for this month’s world championship that lacks some of the biggest names from last year’s Olympic silver-medal team. Changes have been made as the U.S. looks to end losing streaks to Canada, both overall and in major finals.

The full roster is here. Worlds start Wednesday in Brampton, Ontario, and run through the gold-medal game on April 16.

It was already known that the team would be without stalwart forwards Kendall Coyne Schofield, who plans to return to the national team after having her first child this summer, and Brianna Decker, who announced her retirement last month.

Notable cuts include the No. 1 goalies from the last two Olympics: Alex Cavallini, who returned from Christmas childbirth for the tryout camp this past week, and Maddie Rooney, the breakout of the 2018 Olympic champion team.

Cavallini, 31, was bidding to become the first player to make an Olympic or world team after childbirth since Jenny Potter, who played at the Olympics in 2002, 2006 and 2010 as a mom, plus at several world championships, including less than three months after childbirth in 2007.

Forward Hannah Brandt, who played on the top line at last year’s Olympics with Knight and Coyne Schofield, also didn’t make the team.

In all, 13 of the 25 players on the team are Olympians, including three-time Olympic medalists forward Amanda Kessel and defender Lee Stecklein.

The next generation includes forward Taylor Heise, 23, who led the 2022 World Championship with seven goals and was the 2022 NCAA Player of the Year at Minnesota.

The team includes two teens — 19-year-old defender Haley Winn and 18-year-old forward Tessa Janecke — who were also the only teens at last week’s 46-player tryout camp. Janecke, a Penn State freshman, is set to become the youngest U.S. forward to play at an Olympics or worlds since Brandt in 2012.

Abbey Levy, a 6-foot-1 goalie from Boston College, made her first world team, joining veterans Nicole Hensley and Aerin Frankel.

Last summer, Canada repeated as world champion by beating the U.S. in the final, six months after beating the U.S. in the Olympic final. Canada is on its longest global title streak since winning all five Olympic or world titles between 1999 and 2004.

Also at last summer’s worlds, the 33-year-old Knight broke the career world championship record for points (now up to 89). She also has the most goals in world championship history (53). Knight, already the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s hockey player in history, will become the second-oldest American to play at a worlds after Cammi Granato, who was 34 at her last worlds in 2005.

The Canadians are on a four-game win streak versus the Americans, capping a comeback in their recent seven-game rivalry series from down three games to none. Their 5-0 win in the decider in February was their largest margin of victory over the U.S. since 2005.

Last May, former AHL coach John Wroblewski was named U.S. head coach to succeed Joel Johnson, the Olympic coach.

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