Helmut Werb (copy) & Jennilee Marigomen (photos)
The 15-year-old, one of the US gymnastic team’s biggest hopes for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, is aiming for a gold medal. And a world championship title. Is that the definition of perfection for the exuberant gymnast from Vancouver, a fairly middle-class city in the US state of Washington? What does perfection mean for a young African American who likes watching “Dancing with the Stars” on TV, and who, despite a strenuous training regime of more than six hours a day on average with all the effort and pain that entails, still enjoys her sport?
For now, she is still missing probably one of the most emotional distinctions for a sportsman or woman: an Olympic medal.
She experiments a lot and wants to push the boundaries of what is possible for her. Physical pain is part and parcel of the sport.
Jordan Chiles knows that talent and a tough training regime are not enough. To get to the very top, you need that certain something, the extra kick, as she calls it.
It doesn’t always work out. Sometimes, she admits, the quest for perfection is harder, seemingly impossible. “There are elements of an exercise that I just can’t get the hang of, no matter how hard I work on them.” But then she just keeps at it, and keeps at it. Until one day…
Despite her temperament, her bubbly personality that comes to the fore at times when Jordan is not training in the bare, impersonal gymnastics hall, she has taken on a lot. She missed out on the Rio Olympics due to her age. At still 15, Jordan was four months too young for this year’s games. But she wants to be there in Tokyo in four years’ time. She has worked hard enough on her own version of perfection to enable her to skip several qualification levels already. “I hope that in four years I will have perfected my thing.”