Champions usually have a backstory. If you have been watching the Team USA gymnastics Olympic trials this week, you have probably heard some of them already. My favorite story is about Jordan Chiles, one of the four female gymnasts who was selected to go to the Olympics. After Chiles completed her last routine, Simone Biles walked over to her, gave her a big hug, and told her how proud she was. I noticed that she was visibly crying, which I thought was unusual — weren’t all of them competing against each other for a place on the team? Why would Simone Biles be emotional about her competitor’s achievement?
Apparently, a few years ago, Jordan Chiles was ready to quit gymnastics. Once regarded as one of the best gymnasts in her home state of Washington, she had hit a plateau and her performances had become inconsistent. She was a high school senior who had given up most of her social life for gymnastics, and she was done. She was tired of being berated by ruthless coaches who made her feel bad about herself.
Then Simone Biles, who many now regard as the greatest gymnast of all time, heard that Chiles was thinking about leaving the sport. Biles had competed against Chiles and knew her talent. She contacted Chiles and persuaded her to relocate from Washington to Texas to train at Biles’ gym. Biles herself had experienced a great deal of physical and emotional abuse in the gymnastic world and had decided to open her own gym that provided a safe, positive, nurturing environment for talented gymnasts. The story goes that when Chiles arrived at Simone Biles’ gym, the coaches worked on building her confidence before building her skills.
Now Biles and Chiles are headed to the Tokyo Olympics together — something that never would have happened had Biles not built her gym, recruited Jordan Chiles, and taken her under her wing. Simone Biles was like a proud big sister last Sunday. She could not control her tears when she saw what Jordan Chiles had achieved and how far she had come. In fact, she seemed to be more emotional about Jordan Chiles’ victory than her own. And if you watch the clip in this article you will hear the commentators talk not only about Jordan Chiles’ skill and consistency, but also about the confidence she exudes. All because Simone Biles lifted Jordan Chiles up as she climbed to the top.
As one woman on Facebook so eloquently stated, “Trophies are nice, but the biggest flex is winning together and creating an environment where others thrive too.”
The impact Simone Biles has had on Jordan Chiles’ career and life — which wll undoubtely inspire other gymnasts — is immeasurable. And judging by her tears, for Biles, that may be more rewarding than any of her own medals.
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