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Episode #54

Be You. You're Beautiful.

with Jordan Chiles

14 Sep, 2021 · Gymnastics

Jordan Chiles, a 9x Team USA Gymnastics member and a Tokyo Olympic Silver medalist, shares the importance of having a strong support system.

Transcript

Jordan Chiles Olympic Silver Medalist- “Be you. You’re beautiful” 

Stef Strack: 

Today's guest is Jordan Chiles, a nine time National Team member for gymnastics and a Tokyo Olympic silver medalist for Team USA. One of our VIS Creators recently sat down with Jordan to write an article on her support system, which has always been a critical component to Jordan realizing her Olympic dreams.

You can check out the article by signing up for free@voiceandsport.com. In today's episode, we dive deeper into how her support system helped her believe and achieve all the way to not only a world Championship Title, but also Olympic medals. Jordan gets vulnerable talking us through what it feels like to be in a destructive coaching relationship and have all of your light taken away from you.

She highlights the importance of having a strong support system to overcome difficult situations. And talks us through the people in her life, who she can always count on and be open to. Jordan describes her relationship with Simone Biles, her training partner, and fellow Olympic gymnast on team USA telling us what it feels like when Simone decided to withdraw from some of the Olympic events to protect her mental health.

I love Jordan's story because it's so full of highs and lows, all of which led Jordan to become the athlete and the person she is today: positive, strong and inspiring. I am so excited to share this conversation with the VIS community as part of our Olympic series. Welcome to the Voice in Sport podcast, Jordan.

 We're so excited to have you here with us today. We recently featured you in one of our Voice in Sport articles where you talked about your favorite mantra as always believe in the power of your dreams. So I'm really excited for this episode to go deep into your support system, mental health, your journey, and just get to know you a little bit better, share all of your inspiration and insights with our community.

Welcome to the Voice in Sport podcast.

Jordan Chiles: 

Thank you for having me. I'm excited to give you the whole spill of what has gone down and I'm really excited.

Stef Strack: 

I love it. That's what Voice in Sport is all about sharing our stories and making sure that we all know that we're not in it alone. So you started gymnastics in 2007 when you were only six years old. Give us an overview of the beginning of your journey in sports and how you experienced sport growing up.

Jordan Chiles: 

Like you said, I did start around six years old. I was a very outgoing spunky girl. I couldn't sit still when I was younger. My parents decided to put me in gymnastics to see if that would help with my energy level, because running around and doing cartwheels in stores is not really what a little kid should be doing.

So, when I was younger, I did not want to get out of the gym. I didn't, I wanted to stay there because it was fun. It was something that I could do all the time. And I just enjoyed everything that I was doing. I always felt like I was flying or I was in a video game. It was pretty cool to see all the new tricks I was learning.

And that's when everything just started to develop, I was learning new things. Coaches were looking at me like, oh my gosh, this little girl is so talented and amazing. Like she needs to actually be put in this sport. So then that's where everything started. I started with little rec classes and that didn't last very long.

It lasted for probably like two days. And then there was this coach who was like I need your daughter on my team. So then I tried out for the team and then at the age of seven, I started gymnastics. I went pretty quick. I skipped level six, so I went four or five, skipped six. Then I started level seven.

And then when I was level eight, I was eight years old. And then when I was in level nine, I was nine. And then when I was 10, I was level 10. So everything just went really, really quick for me, which is pretty crazy to put in your head like, wow, she was 10 years old, doing high level things out there.

And it's not very common to see that. So everything just went pretty quick. And then that whole international elite started when I was 11. .

Stef Strack: 

It's pretty incredible. So were you playing other sports or was it gymnastics from day one and immediately, that was your only sport? 

Jordan Chiles: 

No. So I used to do T-Ball so actually the name “chick” came from T-ball because in the movie Chicken Little his helmet was so big. So that's what I looked like when I was playing T-ball when I was younger. So that's where I got my nickname, which is kind of weird. Cause I'm like why that movie, but yeah, I did T-ball, I used to do ballet dance. 

My mom would put me in little track competitions during my sister's track competitions that they had. So they would have a little intermission and be like, okay, go. And your kids would just run. So they used to do track when I was little

Stef Strack: 

That's amazing. Do you think it's important to have that balance between different sports when you're younger, do you think that helped you become the athlete you are today?

Jordan Chiles: 

I don't know. Probably track did. Because I was running and I was letting all my energy out, but for T-ball and ballet and dance, I didn't really like it, cause I was tiny for T-ball and I would hit the ball.

Yes. And get home runs. But then in the outfit I would just sit there and pick daisies. Like I wasn't really enjoying that. For ballet and dance, I loved the dance part of it, but the ballet part didn't really enjoy that part of it. But I would probably say track probably helped me cause , I just let all my energy out because when you're running, you're just like, ah, like woo, like a little kid. So that probably helped me with the whole gymnastics part of it

Stef Strack: 

Oh, I bet it did. I mean, there's so many incredible parts to being a gymnast. Running is a huge part of it, your form. And so all of those early experiences in different sports, I'm sure contributed to how amazing you are today. So what's also pretty incredible is that you started competing for team USA in 2013 and you were just 11 years old.

So how did you deal with the pressure that comes from competing at such a high level at such a young age?

Jordan Chiles: 

It definitely is a little nerve wrecking. When I think about it right now, I'm just like 11 years old doing elite gymnastics. That's crazy. When I first went into it, I didn't know what was going on at all. I didn't know what I had put myself into. I was just enjoying the fact that I was doing the sport that I loved and everything else was just, okay.

Yeah. Do this, do that, do this, do that. And it was pretty cool, pretty tough at first because I was like, I'm not getting anything. I just don't understand what's going on. But at the same time, It was just like, whoa, this is so cool. So at the age of 12, I believe I was turning 13. That's when I made the national team and it was my first ever elite assignment.

It was Italy and I was the youngest one out there. So you, so I was out there just like I'm 12, 13 years old, just doing this crazy stuff that you wouldn't even think of. So definitely when I think about it, I'm just like, that's crazy.

Stef Strack: 

But in the moment you just were loving and enjoying the sport so much that the pressure didn't get to you. And at what point did that shift start happening for you where you started recognizing, oh, wow. I'm actually pretty good at this sport. I could go pretty far here.

Was there a pivot at any point between that age of 12 to where you are now where you struggled a little bit with finding yourself as an athlete?

Jordan Chiles: 

Pressure was something that I always felt like I had, but I never showed it because I was just out there enjoying something I love. And I just want to show the world what I can do. But seeing everything that's played out. From when I was 12 to now, there were some things in the midst of everything that I was just like, what is going on?

I don't know what I'm doing. There was a moment in time where I was like, I just don't want to do the sport anymore. And it was really hard to really find myself throughout the whole time period as an athlete. Cause you know, as a person you're still developing, you're still doing this, doing that.

Because I'm young. But as an athlete, there's just two different things that I had to figure out and definitely finding myself with something that I never could, because I just felt like I didn't want to be accepted in the sport. I felt like I wasn't looking how everybody wanted me to look. So the pressure was more of that, making sure. I was looking the right way. I was doing this for them. I was doing that for them. So then as I got older, by the age of 16 years old, I went to Championships. I got silver there, which was cool. I realized, okay, maybe I'm going to be up there, like woo. And then 2017, there was just a big thing that had happened. I had to do a coach change and that was difficult because I was like, I don't even know how this other coach is gonna help me going through this whole next process of what's going on.

I was like, I'm just going to play along, play along. So then by the end of 2018, I was like, I don't even want to be here. I just want to go to college because 2019 is when I was graduating. I just want to go to college. I don't even know why I'm here. Like there's no point because everything just wasn't how it was supposed to be going.

My puzzle pieces were just everywhere, scattered some on the floor, some in the air, like it just wasn't fitting how I was supposed to fit in. That's when I went to my parents, I was like, I'm done. I don't know what to do. I'm sorry. My dreams are going to be over. I'm going off to college.

But then at the end of 2018 was when the world selection camp was happening. I really didn't even want to go, but I got invited. So I was like, I'm going to go see what's going to happen. I know I'm not going to make this world's team because I didn't put the work into it and I'm just going to go out there.

So I went out there, had a conversation with Simone because I was like, I feel that I, I have more to give and I have more to show, but I just didn't know what I should do or should have done. So we had this long conversation, she gave such encouraging words.

She supported me. She was like, girl, just do you, and I was like, okay. I didn't make the 2018 [Team], went back from that camp and I told my parents two months later in December, like, look, y'all, this is what I want to do.

This is how I'm doing it. You can either come or you're staying back. I told them everything. They were like, okay, are you sure and I told them one specific thing. I was like, the only thing that I want to do is graduate because I went to public school. So I was like, I need to graduate.

And then that's when everything just played out. 2019 came, I moved to Texas and I've been here for two years, almost two and a half. So that's how everything from the age of twelve all the way to now played out, but it's been a crazy ride.

Stef Strack: 

Well, thank you so much for sharing that because clearly a lot of ups and downs, right. And several moments, especially one big moment where you went to your parents and said, I think I'm done. I wanna unpack that time in your life in 2017 and 2018 a little bit, and talk about what was it that you were going through that got you to that point of, I want to quit and then how can we help young girls that might be in that same situation, move through it and hopefully stick with sport.

So tell us a little bit more about what you were going through? I mean, you said that you were feeling pressure, but you were never showing that pressure. Bring us back to that really challenging moment.

Jordan Chiles: 

I was going through so much. There were times where, like I regret 2018. I wish that year just never happened. I wouldn't even go to the gym. I would tell my parents, I would go to gym, but then go to a friend's house. And if I did go to gym, I wouldn't practice. I would just sit there and maybe do kicks here and giants there, or just little things.

I just didn't feel like I wanted to be there at all. I honestly was going through, I don't know. I don't even want to say a teenage year, those teenage years where you're just like, I'm going to move out of the house. That's when I felt like I was just like, I'm done, I'm not doing this.

This is crazy. What am I here? And gymnastics is a very expensive sport. So that's the reason why I told my parents. Cause I was like, you don't have to pay for anything, you're done. You've been paying for this since I was little, you're done. But there was so much.

For instance, the coach thing, I went through a very, very hard time with my first coach. I do have to say for young girls out there, even girls like me now, speak up. It's all about speaking up because if you don't speak up, you're going to go through a time like the time that I went through, I felt like I was looking at the same wall every day.

I was just in a box, dark. I had no light to shine. I had nothing. But I realized that I needed to speak up, use my voice. I'm not in this position to be destroyed by somebody that I don't need to be destroyed by. And that's how everything played out.

I realized, look, I'm an adult here. I need to use my voice. I need to show you, coach, you destroyed me. You physically destroyed me. I had nothing else to say, besides you destroyed me. And it was a very crazy, crazy time. I had lost my mental health.

In the midst of that whole time, my mental health was just not there. I would go into my room and would barely talk to my parents. I mean, if there's family over, I would talk to them. How I would cope, I would start drawing. That's when I figured out I could draw. I started drawing, I would paint.

I'm going to listen to music. It was just a very interesting time for me, I did not want to go through because I wasn't depressed. I was still getting up, going outside, doing this, doing that, but it was just the time of mentally I was just not there.

Stef Strack:

 I think what you're sharing is so important because sometimes when you're in situations where there's somebody in your life, that's destroying you either mentally, physically or verbally, it's sometimes hard to recognize it. When you look back now and you look at that moment where you were like, wow, I was being destroyed.

I was being torn down. What advice do you have to girls to recognize that maybe they're not in a good situation?

Jordan Chiles: 

I would probably say if you know how you're feeling and you're scared to tell somebody, go to someone that you really, really trust and just let everything out. Because it feels better when you let things out than to hold them in and then you can just be at ease.

Stef Strack: 

Yeah. What if you feel like you're stuck in a situation and you don't have anyone you can talk to, what do you do?

Jordan Chiles: 

I would probably say, I know there's a lot of people who might not enjoy sports psychology. But definitely, if you think you don't have that type of person to be able to just go do that, to go see us towards psychologists, because I understand it might take a while. It might take awhile, but everything that you do and that you show to that person they'll understand, and they can help you in a different type of way than just going to your friend.

I went to a sports psychologist, and she did such an amazing job. I didn't even know the girl and I just went and just let everything out, things that I was probably like, oh my gosh. I really just told you! Sports psychology is definitely a good route. If you don't have somebody, you can just go and speak out.

Stef Strack: 

We totally agree. That's why we have a community at Voice in Sport. You can sign up for free and you can actually access some of these women that are the top sports psychologists in the world. And sometimes it takes a while to find the right fit, somebody that you really jive with, that you're going to feel comfortable opening up to, but sometimes that's what it takes is maybe going outside your circle and asking for help.

 I want to go back a little bit more to your experience in that time, because you mentioned that you didn't feel like you fit in the sport and maybe you didn't look the part. And I want to talk a little bit about that because gymnastics is one of those aesthetic driven sports.

Everybody is looking at what you're wearing, what your body is doing all the time. How do you, as a young woman in this sport, keep your confidence and when coaches or people are commenting about your body specifically, how do you ensure that you stay in the right mental space?

Jordan Chiles: 

It took me a while to try to stay in the right mental space where that because I had to go through that my whole life from when I started to before I moved it was definitely something that I wish I never went through because I'm not like every other girl nobody's like every other girl, we're all different for a reason.

And getting told the same thing over and over again. Oh, your body's this your body's that you look at this even went all the way to my hair. I've gotten times where my hair wasn't the right way. It was just crazy times, like really, really crazy times. But I definitely recently had to tell myself, Jordan, you're not like everybody else.

can't just go on Instagram and be like, oh my gosh, this girl's so pretty. I can't be like her. I can't look like her. I don't even want to say body shame, but that's basically what being body shamed is; a very, very tough situation that you have to wrap your head around, especially at a young age being body shamed.

Not a cool thing. Cause you're going to take that with you. You're going to take that with you all the way until whenever you're just like, oh, I just can relax. I'm relieved. But also having a sport on top of that is something that's a hundred times worse because you're going to international assignments.

And they're saying that, and you're wondering why you're not getting the same score. It's just really hard. It's really hard to wrap your mind around something that huge and that major, but I just wish, in the gymnastics world, that you can't judge, just based on one person.

Zosia Bulhak: 

Thank you for listening to the voice in sport podcast. My name is Zosia Bulhak, and I'm a cross country runner at the University of Houston. I'm also the producer of this week's episode. If you enjoy hearing from Jordan chiles, check out the article we wrote about her journey to Tokyo on the Voice in Sport platform.

If you would like to get the chance to talk to athletes like Jordan and be mentored by them, go to voiceinsport.com/join, to sign up for a free membership and gain access to exclusive episodes, mentorship sessions, and other weekly content. VIS athletes get access to exclusive content like the recent podcast episode about RED-S with Megan Roche.

Don't forget to follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Tik TOK at voice in sport. Now let's get back to the episode.

Stef Strack: 

What would you say to young girls out there in the sport that do feel like they're being judged or facing all of these comments consistently? What would you say to your younger self Jordan?

Jordan Chiles: 

I would tell them girl, be you. You're beautiful. You have every right to show what you want to show and express what you want to express. Don't let anybody else tell you something different. You are who you are for a reason. God created you. How you are. Nobody else

That person that says something to you, they didn't create your body. You're beautiful. Enjoy every last minute.

Stef Strack: 

So powerful. Thank you. A big part of what we're trying to do at Voice in Sport. We know girls are dropping out at that really critical age that you almost dropped out at and look at you. You went on to become a silver medalist at this last Olympics.

But you know, it wasn't easy. You had the challenges that you went through. I want to unpack a little bit the mental health side and then your support system, because I know both of those things are really important to your success from that age 16, up to 20 where you are today.

Let's transition a little bit to your teammate and friend Simone, guys brought up a really important conversation about mental health. When, Simone withdrew from some of the Olympic events. Take us back to that moment when you made the team, you're at the Olympics, which is pretty incredible, on a global stage.

And Simone comes to you and your teammates and says, I'm not doing this part. You guys got this. What was that moment like for you as a team and how did you personally stay focused and get out there and kick butt? 

Jordan Chiles: 

As a team, it was very devastating. We all were crying. We all were just, oh my goodness, what's going on? She's our leader here. How are we supposed to put our minds into this basically? At the end of the day, we all told each other, look, we know how to do this. We went from point A to point B to compete in this amazing competition that we're at right now. We just had to tell each other give it your all, you know how to do this, go out there, show the world. It's just you and that event, just do you. And so we understood where she was coming from though as well. Once she told us she was like, guys, you know how to do this? You put everything your whole life into this moment. So just go out there and have fun. And we were like, okay, we're doing it for you. This one's for you. That's what we had to do.

And, you know, the outcome was an amazing outcome. We literally, no matter what, we just stayed focused. We did our job and we enjoyed every last minute that we did that day and even further on. But her, especially coming out onto the floor and cheering us on, I was just like, Girly, you just inspired so many other girls out there and it doesn't mean you're doing that.

And she obviously did want to compete. She did, but you know, it's all about mental health. It's all about understanding, I need time to think, because when you don't, when you're on a stage and you have to do what you do, and that's a lot of mind work, it's a lot of mind work and you need to be able to put that mind in a great position for you to succeed. And that's how we understood where she was at when that whole thing happened. And we were like, okay, you do you, we're just going to support you. We're going to love you. We're going to give you the best that you ever had. It was an amazing moment from when it first happened all the way to the end.

Stef Strack: 

It's incredible to see the power of all of you guys coming together and supporting each other like that. That was probably the most beautiful part watching it from over here in the US and you inspired a lot of young girls. Simone inspired a lot of young girls.

And I think it shines light on a very important conversation around taking care of your mental health, treating your mind just as important as your body and ensuring that you're taking care of both. So you mentioned to me that you started seeing a sports psychologist in March of 2021 leading up to the Olympics.

So can you tell us a little bit about your experience in finding that person? What are the top three things you've learned so far with engaging and working on your mental health?

Jordan Chiles: 

So, when I was younger, actually I tried a sports psychologist. I really didn't like it. And so I told him a lot. I was like, I'm not doing this. I'm sorry. I was like, what am I doing? I'm talking to somebody that I don't even know. I'm 12 years old. I don't like meetings, especially because these things take hours and I'm just like, what is going on?

And I had an exercise that person was giving to me. I wouldn't even do them the right way. It's like closing your eyes and thinking of this thing. And if you think of that thing multiple times, You have to start over. And I was thinking of the same thing over and over again.

I was like, I'm not starting over. Like, I have other things to do. But now my mom was like, can you just please try it again? And I was like, I guess I'll try it again. So I went out to the gym and that day, I don't know what had happened that day. I let everything go, like everything. And I looked at my sports psychologist and I was like, I don't normally do this to people. I first meet and I didn't just give my whole life story in one talk, that was crazy.

And ever since then, after meeting, after meeting, after meeting, I was finally able to relax and understand what was happening and what the exercises were. Because I had a thing where I would repeat the same thing in my head on a vault of me hyperextending my knee all the time.

And I had told her that, and she was like, well, I need you to do this. So every single time I would think of that and doubt myself. So I would have like, say a wristband on this. I would have to switch it. And that gets annoying when you have to keep switching and switching and over and over again. And that was one of the exercises.

And I was just like, I'm not going to keep doing this. So I figured out, okay, Jordan, instead of doubting myself, I'd be like I'm going to do this. It's going to be a great day. Let's see how this goes, basically instead of doubting myself, like, oh my gosh, I'm going to fall today. So I was like, wow, I'm understanding myself. And my brain is actually working how it's supposed to work and I was really happy. So then I started going to her and I was like, Hey, sports psychologists might help a lot of people.

And then also visualizing, when visualizing things, your brain takes the last thing you visualize and it will make it a good ending.

Stef Strack: 

How do you incorporate the visualization into your performance days? Is it something that you do right before, during or after?

Jordan Chiles: 

I do it right before each event. I don't know if you've ever seen me go like this before I go on beam half the time I pray in that moment or I visualize my routine and it's been working. So every single time I go like this, I give myself a little prayer. And then I visualize my routine.

So normally before each event, I'll sometimes do it in the shower while I'm getting ready. It just depends on what my mood is or what I feel like doing. So if I want to do it over and over again, or if I just want to do it in that moment of me competing.

Stef Strack: 

I love that. There's so much power in visualization and seeing yourself succeed. And it obviously worked for you in this Olympics. So you came out with the silver metal not bad. And that moment must have been just so incredible for you and the team on a global stage. How do you go through a moment like that, where it's amazing.

You're celebrating, you've just achieved something, but you go into this athlete mode and you're like, Okay, onto the next, and you don't spend time truly appreciating what you just accomplished. Did you find yourself in that zone? Or have you been really taking a moment to celebrate the work you guys did together?

Jordan Chiles: 

Man, I wish I could tell you, I think we're all still on a high of what we just did because it went so fast. This is my first week back in Texas. So everything that I was doing, I went to New York. I went to LA, everything was just going, going, going, and I've told myself, I am an Olympic silver medalist. That's so crazy. That's cool. I love it. Our accomplishments. Every single time I look at it, it's just an awning moment, but seeing what we did in that moment and actually realizing we did that, we didn't just go out there and show the world what we normally do.

We had more than just that. And I'll probably talk about it like, oh, you remember that? We did that but celebrated our moments. I think we had the opportunity to celebrate that moment, because it was such a huge thing that we had done and we had accomplished, and we were just all excited. We were happy.

Stef Strack: 

I love it. I love what you said. We didn't get silver. We won silver.

Jordan Chiles: 

Yes.

Stef Strack: 

That's pretty powerful.

Jordan Chiles: 

We did win silver because this was supposed to be for four people. And there were only three of us that did that. And that's a huge thing. That is a huge thing. I'm still in shock. I'm just like, wow.

Stef Strack: 

Well, you didn't do it alone. And that's the whole point of the article we wrote with you a few weeks ago, it's that the support system is so incredible. So we talked about Simone and mental health, the other support system that you spoke about in your article, were your parents and your siblings.

So I would love for you to tell us a little bit about The importance of Jade and jazz and how they've been a great support system for you and what you've learned from your parents.

Jordan Chiles: 

My sisters. Oh my gosh, Jasmine and Jade, they are the most amazing sisters I could ever ask for. They've supported me ever since I was little. They loved me. They supported me. They were at every competition that I had. Words can't explain how much I appreciate them.

I probably wouldn't be where I am right now, if it wasn't for them. And they were role models to me. Basically as much as I dedicated my life to this sport, they dedicated their lives to this sport. My sister Jade went off to college and Pullman at the time and she would always text me like, Hey Sis, I hope you're doing well.

So definitely those two are some supportive people I've ever met in my life. Even in Jasmine, she's done my hair ever since I was little. So just having her there doing my hair and makeup is something that I've always wanted because I was like you used to do when I was little. She's eight years older than me.

So she went off to college when I was in middle school. Being able to have them by my side and just being able to enjoy this journey with me. It's an amazing feeling. I love them so much.

My parents, oh my gosh. I don't know about y'all, but my parents are the best people I have ever had in my life.

And I'm not just saying because they're my parents, but what they do to help others is something that I want to do with my family one day. For instance, My mom always tells me, just do you, you know what you're doing, you're Jordan, and don't be somebody else, just go out there and do you, and my dad and his famous words, do your best and forget the rest. 

He said that to me ever since I was little and it's always stuck with me cause it's right. You can't control what happens with everything else. As long as you know that you did what you did. The outcome is the outcome. They're amazing people I couldn't ask for better parents, how they raised us was an amazing thing.

Stef Strack: 

It's incredible to have that as part of your support system. And the other thing that you called out in the article is your teammates and your friends. This is another place where any girl can find a support system. You spend so much time training together and it can create a really special bond.

So what is the most important thing to remember when you're trying to find that support within your teammates, because I'm assuming it wasn't always like that. Maybe you had maybe some unsupportive teammates and some not so good moments in that area. How do you build that bond?

Jordan Chiles: 

It took me a while to build a bond. That teammate, that friend that you're talking about is someone that I never really thought like, I could be friends with her. And then other than that, she's famous. She's my idol. I never, ever in my life thought I would be such good friends with Simone.

She will forever be my ride or die. She's my sister. My partner in crime. Having her by my side, in this whole journey, and then also having her as a friend, it's an amazing thing because it's hard to find those right people. Like you said, there's some people that weren't really good friends.

And then there are people who are, But being able to have somebody that, I mean, it sucks that it took so long for me to find that person, cause I wish I had it when I was younger, but seeing that I found it now and how it's changed me and how it's been an amazing thing because still, to this day, I'm friends with an Olympian.

Like what? That's crazy. That's two time Olympian, and she's done so much. She's inspired me to do bigger things and just go out there and do things for yourself and don't do it for others.

Stef Strack: 

I love that you guys, his power duo nickname is Biles and Chiles. Okay. So what do you give her and what does she give you when you just take a step back? Good friends, always have this give and take. So what do you give her and what does she give you?

Jordan Chiles: 

I think I gave her the young ages back. I think I gave her that teenage fun spunky type of feeling that she's obviously older than me. When we hang out, it's oh fun, we're doing this, we're doing that. We're going shopping. We're doing this like little teenage things.

But then what she gives me is. The dedication and the drive, and the passion that she has done to be where she is right now and how she wants to live her life in ways that nobody else would. So it's a win-win, I'm in my twenties, like, okay, so she's doing this, she's doing this, let me see how I can maybe do those things or do things better than that. But I think it's also our bond that helps. She understands me. I understand her, which is crazy because I don't think I've ever met anybody that I can truly understand the way that we understand each other.

Stef Strack:

I love that you found that and I hope that all girls out there find it whether it's in your sport, in your team or on another team. Finding that special bond with another athlete is pretty incredible. You're headed off to your freshman year at UCLA, which is so exciting.

One of the best gymnastics programs in the nation and schools in the country that has a pretty cool business program. You also have your own business, so let's talk about your own business, why did you create your apparel line?

Jordan Chiles: 

So, yes, I do have my own clothing line called Melanin Drip Clothing Co. The reason why I did this is because at the time of the pandemic, there was that black lives matter thing. And I wanted to give the world something that everybody should feel comfortable in their own skin.

Everybody should be able just to go out there and you're beautiful. You're. Intelligent and you're outgoing, whatever you put your mind to, you'll be able to do personality wise, skin color wise, hair wise. So that's where the whole melanin part of everything came into because girls out there, you're pretty, you're gorgeous. Use your skin to go out and just enjoy life because no matter what people say, you're still your own self. And then for the drip part, I'm a drippy person. I'm a sneakerhead. I will be swagged out head to tail. And so I had put the drip aspect of the whole Melanin vibe because a lot of my stuff is street wear.

That has been a big thing that I did and I wanted to open up and do something with business at some point. I guess that was the point, the clothing line. So I was really happy about that. I hope in the future that it will become bigger and bigger and just let it do what it needs to do and inspire others to do the same.

Stef Strack: 

Well, I love it. I'm sure you can turn it into something even bigger when you walk out of UCLA and you're four years.

But now you're entering a team as a medalist at the Olympics. What do you think about building new relationships? Because I think this is something really common with young girls, they're all heading to their new teams here in a month. So what would your advice be on how to approach it?

Jordan Chiles: 

I would say I'm an outgoing person. So if I feel your vibe and I feel your energy, I will go up to you and be like, Hey, I'm Jordan, nice to meet you. We should be friends. But if not, I might go up to you and be like, hi, how are you doing? Try to get to know you.

I would say if you're that type of person that is just cool, relaxed, sits back and enjoys the ride. Then do that. But if you're like me, Hey, go for it. It works. I have friends that I'm like, how am I friends with you? I don't even remember how I became friends. But for young people younger than me I would say. If it's that right person that you feel comfortable doing things with and being able to, tell them what's going on through your mind, or even through your daily life, then you know, that person is the right person for you because that's what happened to me.

I was telling Simone things that I'm like, I don't even remember me saying that? She's like, yeah. So you said this, I was like, huh? but it's also that bond. If you feel that bond, if you feel you are able to connect very, very well and you understand, then you should be able to truly know I can be friends with you. I'm all about that gut feeling.

Stef Strack: 

Well, I think what you're saying is so spot on for even the stuff we were talking about earlier, right? If you're not feeling good or your, or something doesn't feel right, it's probably not. And then ultimately listening to your gut and following who you connect with is So important and it becomes easier, I think, as you get older, Because you start to know yourself a little bit more, you start opening up your eyes a little bit more to how other people are, and they're not always going to be like you. And there's that beauty in the fact that people are different. 

And that's why I wanted to ask about the give and take for you and Simone, because I think often, two very different people with very different things to bring to the table, make the best. And that's a big part of what we're trying to do at VIS is make sure that more young girls see more diverse role models and then have access to them

Let's wrap it up with your general advice because it's just been amazing to see all the hard work that you do. Excited to see that you are part of the future of the sport. Someone who is grounded in really strong values and who wants to give back to the next generation. It brings a lot of hope for me as a mom to see where the future of gymnastics is going to be going. What is something that you would like to say to a girl who feels like they don't have the support system today? And they feel alone? 

Jordan Chiles: 

I would probably say, if you are able to enjoy what you're doing and you love it, and you have put your whole life and dedicated your whole life to this. If you feel comfortable writing it down because just getting your thoughts out.

We'll help you in a way to where you can just relax and enjoy every last minute. So in that situation, if they didn't have a support system and they weren't able to speak to somebody that they feel comfortable with. Just to go and write it down, it could be a whole novel, it could be just a sticky note that you stick on your wall .

Just let your thoughts out because that will definitely help you. And you'll thrive better in those situations. Cause all those things that were in your mind that were holding you down will be gone, long gone.

Stef Strack: 

Love it. There's so much power in journaling. Do you still do it today, Jordan? Do you still draw?

Jordan Chiles: 

I do draw, yes. I still draw. I haven't done that in a while. I was in Tokyo though. I was coloring in coloring books.

Stef Strack: 

That can be super therapeutic. So, thank you so much, Jordan, for joining us on the Voice in Sport podcast. And just for opening up so much about the challenges that you faced, especially earlier on in your career.

I know it's going to help so many young girls and it's just important to share these stories. So I just want to say a big thank you. I can't wait to see what you're going to do on this tour, that's coming up with the team Athleta, but also just for the future of the sport.

Jordan Chiles: 

Thank you. Thank you for having me. It was an honor.

Stef Strack: 

This week's episode was produced and edited by VIS Creator, Zosia Bulhak, a track and cross country athlete from the University of Houston. 

Jordan, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us today. It is so inspiring and exciting to see the light that you're bringing to the future of gymnastics as women and girls in sport. We are going to face many challenges in our journey, but Jordan's story shows us how to build a strong support system to overcome and conquer these obstacles.

Whether it's the best moments of our sporting careers or the lowest lows. It is always better to share them with people we trust and love. Even individual sports like gymnastics, have a team of supporters, family, and friends, teammates standing behind the competitors.

Thank you for your vulnerability, Jordan and sharing how you overcame adversity to become an Olympic silver medalist. You can follow Jordan on Instagram at Jordan chiles. Please subscribe to the Voice in Sport podcast and give us a rating and review on apple podcasts. You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok @voiceinsport.

If you're interested in joining our community, sign up for free at voiceandsport.com/join to get started. Membership at Voice in Sport can get you access to our exclusive content and podcasts, mentorship sessions from professional athletes and the top experts in sports, psychology and nutrition, starting as low as $18 a month.

You might also want to check out other episodes featuring game changing women athletes like Madison Hammond in episode number 49. Changing the system and creating inclusive space. See you next week on the Voice in Sport podcast!

Jordan Chiles, a 9x Team USA Gymnastics member and a Tokyo Olympic Silver medalist, shares the importance of having a strong support system.