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The U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials in Minneapolis offered a mixed bag! While some gymnasts saw their Olympic dreams turn into reality, a few others had to temporarily put those plans on hold. Amongst the latter who returned from the Target Center with hopes of a comeback was Shilese Jones. On Friday, during a warm-up session, Jones crash-landed from the vault and injured her knee. While she had hoped to return to the trials, she ultimately ended up bowing out of the league.

Following this unexpected twist of fate, Jones’ coach Sarah Korngold penned a heartfelt message for her. Taking to her Instagram, Korngold wrote, “💔 It wasn’t the weekend you dreamed of, worked for or deserved. You showed incredible maturity, sportsmanship and grit in the face of huge disappointment. As you always say, you’re a fighter. What ever comes next – I’m proud of you.” To see things go so terribly unplanned on the D-day is something that can plunge the morale of any sportsperson. But even in this upsetting moment, coach Korngold appreciated Jones for her spirit and resolve.

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Well, Coach Korngold’s appreciation for Shilese Jones’ strong mindset has surfaced previously too. In an exclusive interview with EssentiallySports, she hailed Jones’ ability to navigate extreme pressure conditions. Shedding light on the fact that Jones places a ‘majority of the pressure’ on herself, Korngold highlighted how that practically nullifies the external pressure on the 2x world champion. She even praised Jones’ approach of prioritizing her self-opinion saying, “She’s in control of that….”

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As per Korngold, Jones also allows herself to let loose occasionally. On her good days, the gymnast doesn’t impose limits on herself and likes to “have a good time and crack some jokes and stuff.” But that does not discount the fact that Jones has had a difficult journey so far. From her 2020-21 phase to date, she has waited extremely long for her Olympic debut. Was she short of preparation? Never. She mostly had a series of unfortunate injuries restricting her from spreading her wings to the fullest.

Shilese Jones’ injury scarred career

First, the COVID-19 pandemic and then a horrifying car accident pushed the 2021 Tokyo Olympics far away from Jones’ reach. With a fractured back and foot, Jones’ roadmap to clinching a spot on America’s gymnastics team quickly went down the drain. But she was never short of determination. During her 4-month recovery period, she still made an appearance at the Olympic Trials and ended up finishing 10th overall. However, as fate would have it, she missed the selection by a single spot, as the top 9 gymnasts were chosen to represent the nation.

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Only when Jones thought that the dark days were behind her, another injury cropped up in 2022. This time, it was her shoulder. Midway through a release move on the bars at the World Championships, she received yet another setback, which resulted in tears in her labrum. While the healing process rendered her capable of gracing the mats soon, this remains a trouble point that affects her to this day.

Even recently, at the 2024 Xfinity US Gymnastics Championships, she ended up withdrawing citing a flare-up in the same. “Right after I got off the floor [there], like I didn’t hear ‘click.’ I didn’t hear any pops, nothing major. I was just like, ‘Oh, my shoulder’s a little sore.'” But come Friday, she “could barely raise” her arms. Nonetheless, she was very optimistic about the Paris Olympics. She had agreed that her chances to make it to the team were pretty good and that she wouldn’t give up. However, this injury in her knee at the Trials has just added to Jones’ misery. But, there is hope that the fighter will move past this too, soon enough.