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Jordan Chiles makes history at US Gymnastics Championships

UCLA gymnastics rising sophomore Jordan Chiles poses on floor. Chiles finished third in the all-around at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships. (Courtesy of John Cheng/USA Gymnastics)

By Sam Settleman

Aug. 23, 2022 2:59 p.m.

Only two gymnasts in the world can say they went to the Olympics, competed in the NCAA and then came back to elite gymnastics.

Jordan Chiles is one of them.

The UCLA gymnastics rising sophomore made history when she competed at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Tampa, Florida, on Friday and Sunday. Chiles earned the bronze in the all-around and on bars and floor, while incoming freshman Ciena Alipio finished 17th in the all-around and secured the silver on beam.

Chiles was one of eight gymnasts named to the 2022-2023 Senior Women’s National Team following the competition.

Also in attendance in Tampa were UCLA coach Janelle McDonald and assistant coach BJ Das, who made the cross-country trip to cheer on the pair of Bruins.

A former coach of elite gymnasts herself, McDonald said having two UCLA student-athletes competing at the U.S. championships highlights the prominence of the program.

“It really shows the level of athleticism we have on this team, that we have two athletes that are able to compete at the top level of our sport,” McDonald said. “That’s where we want to be. There’s a great tradition and history here of excellence. Being able to have athletes still competing in the elite scene really just showcases that we’re still building upon that legacy.”

Ever since Chiles stepped foot on UCLA’s campus last fall, she has remained committed in her desire to one day return to elite competition. Chiles’ earned the highest achievement of her gymnastics career last summer when she won a silver medal with Team USA at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Chiles followed up her Olympics journey by partaking in Simone Biles’ “Gold Over America Tour” and competed for a full season in Westwood before returning to elite gymnastics Friday – and she’s still striving to reach the Paris 2024 Olympics.

“She loves gymnastics,” McDonald said. “I think she’s really proud of the things she’s accomplished in the elite world. And she knows she has more to give to the sport.”

In her first year with UCLA, Chiles posted three perfect 10s on two different events, was named a second-team All-American on floor and qualified to the NCAA championships on both bars and floor.

Despite elite competition demanding more difficult skills than NCAA gymnastics, Chiles had no problems readjusting. She opened the competition on day one with a 4-for-4 showing, totaling a 56.150 to put her in third place. Four more hits on day two Sunday clinched the all-around bronze.

McDonald said Chiles’ continued pursuit of elite gymnastics showcases her dedication to the sport and desire for growth.

“I think part of it is just trying to push yourself to keep growing and learning and see what she can make out of it,” McDonald said. “I think that’s something that makes UCLA really special, too, is it’s a place with great opportunity that really pushes you to grow in every aspect of your life. And I think that Jordan is just taking that on in her elite gymnastics career as well.”

(Courtesy of Allison Cheng/USA Gymnastics)
Incoming freshman Ciena Alipio leaps on beam. Alipio placed second on beam in the competition. (Courtesy of Allison Cheng/USA Gymnastics)

Alipio – who is set to join the Bruins for her freshman year in the fall – notched a 17th-place finish in the all-around, but finished second on beam with a 13.600 on the event on day one and a 13.950 on day two. Alipio’s 8.250 execution score on her second beam routine was exceeded on just two other beam routines in the two days of competition.

McDonald said competing in an environment like the U.S. championships will prove to be a valuable experience for Chiles and Alipio for the 2023 collegiate season.

“In NCAA, you’re going to have big crowds, a lot of noise, a lot of excitement,” McDonald said. “Any time you’re able to go on a big stage like the national championships and compete is going to be able to make deposits in your confidence bank to take that with you moving forward to future competitions.”

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Sam Settleman | Sports editor
Settleman is currently the Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and gymnastics beats. He was previously an assistant editor on the gymnastics, women's soccer, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
Settleman is currently the Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and gymnastics beats. He was previously an assistant editor on the gymnastics, women's soccer, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
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