7 questions with Olympic gymnast and silver-medalist Jordan Chiles – OnMilwaukee.com

It may be hard to believe – but the Tokyo Olympics were just a few months ago. But while we have to wait three years for the return of the world’s greatest sporting event (or just four months for the winter rendition), Milwaukee won’t have to wait nearly that long to see the return of one of its signature events as the Gold Over America tour will bring some of the globe’s most incredible gymnasts to Fiserv Forum on Saturday, Oct. 16.

This year’s tour brings plenty of remarkable athletes worth flipping out about – including the GOAT Simone Biles, viral gymnastics phenom Katelyn Ohashi, 2016 team gold-medalist Laurie Hernandez, and recent Tokyo Olympians Jade Carey, Grace McCallum, MyKayla Skinner and Jordan Chiles. Before she takes the mat in Milwaukee, we got a chance to chat with Chiles about her experience in Tokyo, her plans for the future, the increasing spotlight on mental health in athletics and where she plans to put her Tokyo silver medal. 

OnMilwaukee: I have to start with the obvious question: What was it like going to the Tokyo Olympics – and not just the Olympics, but one of the strangest Olympics in its history?

Jordan Chiles: It was an interesting experience, I do have to say – but I loved every last minute of it. If I could, I would go back and do it all over again. I think honestly the only reason why it was an interesting experience was like that was because of, yes, COVID and all of that. But at the end of the day, we all just had to realize that we made it to a huge gymnastics competition, and for all the accomplishments we’d done in the past, this was our reward. So everything that we just did was very, very memorable, and we have a lot of memories we’ll take back from that. And it was an amazing experience. 

And not only did you take back memories, you took back a silver medal. Do you know where you’re going to put that, or do you have any special plans for it?

As of right now, I really don’t know where I’m going to put it. It’s gonna be hidden, for sure, and it’s only coming out occasionally when I need it come out. But other than that, it’s gonna be hidden, and nobody will ever figure out where it’s at. (laughs)

How much exploring did you get to do in Tokyo? Was there any of that at all, and if not, how did you pass the time in between events, games and the downtime?

Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to sightsee because of COVID protocols. We had to stay in our bubble, and we had to quarantine for 14 days before we could really do anything – and by the end of that 14 days, we were already going home. So there was really no time for us to go out, and we couldn’t even watch the other Olympic games that were happening because we had to stay in our bubble that we had. 

Personally, I would go back as a vacation to go and sightsee and visit little areas around there. Their culture is amazing; the people are amazing and so nice. I love it. Other than that, I would say ten out of ten – recommend. If you’re trying to go on a vacation to Tokyo, go – because it’s amazing.

Is there a part of you that feels like you missed out on the spectacle of the Olympics on some level?

Yes and no. I wanted to watch the other games that were happening – especially track and field. Other than that, we were still able to go to the Olympic Village. We were still able to meet other people if we were in the Village. But honestly, this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so not every Olympics is going to be the same. You’re going to meet different people; you’re going to see different things. Obviously, this one’s a lot different compared to the other ones because of the whole pandemic and everything – and hopefully it’s going to be the last one. But this one is going to be written in a lot of history books because of what happened and how it all happened.

Yeah, you’re always going to be a part of such a moment in history – which has to feel strange and exciting and weird at the same time, I imagine.

(Laughs) It does. It is very interesting how I’m going to be in those moments with everyone else – who is way above me with what they’ve accomplished. But being in that same world is gonna be really cool.

I don’t know if this is looking ahead too early, but are you already looking ahead to Paris 2024 then? What’s the future for you?

So as of right now, I’m not looking too far into Paris because we have the tour. That’s the thing I’m focusing on right now, because that’s another huge accomplishment: going on a gymnastics tour and being able to visit different cities and showing the world, “Look, this is me; I have a whole different side of me.” And then I have school; I go off to UCLA in the winter, so that’s going to be really fun and cool. 

But I can tell you that ’24 has been up in the air. I’ve thought of it, but I’m just taking things day by day, month by month, just to see how my body and my mind can stay focused. Because that’s what it’s all about: making sure you’re healthy in both ways. But we’ll see! I can’t give you a specific answer, but we’ll see. You never know. (laughs)

You brought up the mental and physical sides of the sport, which were obviously under the magnifying glass this past Olympics. What were your feelings about the conversation going on around everything? Was it frustrating to hear the takes, or was it nice to have that information – like the “twisties” – out there for the general public to know about?

I’m happy it’s out. I’m 100 percent all for what had happened. Because there’s a lot of things that the outside world doesn’t know about gymnasts and what we go through behind the scenes. I wish everybody could see behind the scenes and understand why we do a lot of the things we do. Because then they’d understand, “Oh, so this person did this; that makes sense because of what was going on.”

Mental health is something that should’ve been spoken upon a long time ago, but you have to have that right person – and Simone was that right person. She was able to go out there and speak and do what she did. She’s the GOAT for a reason. She’s the GOAT in many different ways. There’s different sides of her, and there are a lot of sides that people have yet to see – and I’m happy that this side came out and that people were able to see that. 

Yes, there were rude comments here or there, but those people don’t exist, they don’t matter, because she is who is she. So having that ability to come out and do what she did was an amazing thing, and it inspired a lot of people. It inspired a whole new direction for her. That’s an amazing thing. Naomi Osaka: What she did was an amazing thing. It’s important for everybody to make sure they’re healthy in any type of way: mentally, physically, emotionally. So having the ability to come out and speak on that is an amazing thing.

I just feel like if I was feeling any level of discomfort or uncertainty or mentally in a strange place, I can’t imagine a worse thing to do than jumping and flipping several feet into the air and trying to land it. It can be a dangerous sport if you’re not smart about those things.

Yes, exactly. And I wish people could see that. But they think that we do a lot of this stuff for them. If they want us to perform in a certain way, we have to be healthy in order for them to be happy. It is what it is. They’re human. They’re people. You can’t control what they say. All we can do is control what we do with ourselves.

As for this tour, are the routines going to be similar to what they saw at the Olympics, or is this going to be new material, new show, new approach?

We’re not going to be doing our Olympic routines because that’s going to be a lot considering that we’re going to over 30 cities. It’s going to be kind of like a pop concert. Think of Beyonce going to every city and just enjoying what she does. That’s what we’re going to be doing. There’s going to be a bunch of LED lights, spoken word, social media interactions – it’s going to be really fun. It’s going to be something you wouldn’t expect – but you’re going to be like, “I want to go to that tour again next year.”