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Alongside Simone Biles, ‘Hype Woman’ Jordan Chiles Excited at Possibility of Making African-American History at Paris Olympics 2024

Published 05/14/2024, 10:29 PM EDT

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Gabby Douglas showed the path in the 2012 London Olympics, being the first Black woman to clinch the Olympic all-around gold medal. In the 2016 Rio Olympics, Simone Biles set the tone firmly with her African-American background. The Texas native became an inspiration to the community, pulling off the same in winning excellence in the all-around event. Now, Jordan Chiles thinks African-American women can repeat the same feat in the Parisian arena. 

Jordan Chiles joins 7-time Olympic medalist Simone Biles and Shilese Jones to make a formidable prospect for the American team, bound for the Paris Olympics. The trio represents the African-American community and if they earn the call together, the Team USA gymnastics squad will be majorly represented by people of color. Thinking about that, Jordan Chiles recently stated, “It would mean the world, it would mean that no matter where we go, there’s always gonna be history.” It will also do wonders for the mindset of the communities as well, she believes. 

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Explaining her views to Olympics.com, the Tokyo Olympic medalist said, “It definitely will give a perspective of [that] the changes [are] coming even more.” But, while looking at the representation of the community of color, NCAA-level gymnastics is still lagging in giving a cheering picture.

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As per data from 2021, in NCAA Division 1, Black women represent approximately 10% of the scholarship athletes. In the national gymnastics team, the count goes slightly better, just more than 10%. Such a result came despite the presence of names Simone Biles and Jordan Chiles in the sport. But no one can argue the duo, mainly Simone Biles, has been playing the roles all these years to inspire the communities to take part in. The current picture in the national camp can support that statement. 

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The visible change after Simone Biles enters the scene 

The magnificent story of athletes of color entering the USA gymnastics dates back a while. Among the Black women, Dominique Dawes remained the first individual Olympic medalist. But after the consecutive entries of Gabby Douglas and Simone Biles in the Glory Book, things received the much-needed boost. 

In her recollection, Dawes once said, “Being a young African American girl that was coming up in a sport that lacked diversity internationally and nationally, you did feel different because you stood out.” But now, almost one-third of the national team members come from an African-American background. Moreover, Betty Okino, one of the first African American gymnasts to earn an Olympic medal, remained coach in the national camp for the Winter Cup this year. So explaining the role Simone Biles plays, she added some anecdotes. 

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“Until parents of Black and brown athletes see somebody on television at the Olympics who is representing their daughter or child, they’re not going to put their child in that sport,” Okino said. And who does not know about Simone Biles’ achievement on the gymnastics mat? The 27-year-old Texan boasts of being the most decorated gymnast ever. Furthermore, she has been one of the most common faces on television when it comes to elite gymnastics contests. Surprisingly, on the eve of the Tokyo Olympics, Grambling State University took an unrivaled approach to celebrate Simone Biles and other elite gymnasts’ Olympic endeavors. 

During the annual conference, around 100 Black and brown gymnasts came together at Grambling State University. Watching all these efforts, Simone Biles spoke her mind once. She stated, “I feel like I have instilled confidence in little African Americans all over the world, I feel like if I can do it, then you can do it. But it was a struggle growing up because you don’t see many of your kind so you just try to break that barrier.” Now, once again, Simone Biles is leading the pack to fill out the gaps. 

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Written by

Prasun Chakrabarty

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Prasun Chakrabarty is an Olympic Sports Writer for EssentiallySports, who specializes in covering aquatic arena events. Post his experiences with prominent publications, Prasun began his days in ES, by actively covering two prime events - 2023 US Open Swimming Championships and the 2024 TYR Pro Swim Series. Prasun's coverage extends beyond the pool, and he takes specific interest in the progress of the triangular rivalry between track and field stars, Sha’Carri Richardson, Shericka Jackson and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.
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Edited by

Bhujaya Ray Chowdhury