Jordan Chiles’ comments about her new elite floor routine are valid — but don’t take it out on the wrong people

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, Feb. 9, 2024

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GymCastic’s Jessica O’Beirne attended National Team Camp this week in Katy, Texas, and reported live from the camp during this week’s show. The buzziest bit of the episode was an interview with Jordan Chiles in which Chiles discusses having to re-do her floor routine because she was told by a “head” (not, she clarifies and O’Beirne reiterates, the head of USA Gymnastics, or even an American) that her NCAA hip-hop routine would not score well enough internationally. You can see Chiles in the video looking to the side to clarify whether she’s being vague enough about who told her this. 

The interview, and O’Beirne’s subsequent commentary (along with that of her co-host, Spencer Barnes) touch on the racist implications of this statement and lead to a discussion of why elite gymnastics has yet to evolve enough to allow for a broader definition of “artistry.”

But somewhere along the line, wires got crossed (telephones used to have wires, ok? Instead of fiber-optic cables and 5G networks), as they do, and the story blooming on the gymternet became that USA Gymnastics leadership told Chiles that her floor routine was “too Black.” Then, USAG personnel started getting threats. 

I included the interview below as Five at the IX this week, because I hope to illustrate the dangers of playing telephone in this way. Essentially, when someone thinks they heard something, reports that they heard that thing without confirming it’s what they heard, and then it continues to get passed down the gossip chain, tweaked by every new person who hears it.

It’s not cool to threaten someone, obviously, and even less cool to threaten them based on something you read online and maybe didn’t verify. If you watch Chiles’ interview, you know at a minimum that she is being circumspect about who told her this information about her floor routine because she is at national team camp. Performing the new floor routine. She’s not going back now; she is just acknowledging that yes, she changed it, and no, it wasn’t her idea to do so. She is quite clear that she won’t tell us who said what to her or to her coaches, and exactly as clear that it was not an American gymnastics official. 

Someone affiliated with USAG did take to Reddit to assert that it was not an American official nor anyone from USAG who spoke to Chiles. 

And it’s also not cool to villainize O’Beirne or GymCastic. O’Beirne was crystal clear about Chiles’ not identifying who spoke with her, and equally clear that it was not someone from USAG. I’ve written here about GymCastic’s legitimacy issues with a lot of gym fans, and it seems to be a persistent issue where anything they say (despite the fact that their scoops are almost always proven right) is questioned to death.

It’s fine — encouraged here, even — to be mad that a Black athlete says that she cannot express herself the way she wants to in an artistic gymnastics routine. But it’s not okay to create a scapegoat out of the messenger (GymCastic) and then to extrapolate on the internet and take Chiles’ words out of context, or add to them something that didn’t exist. 

Other gym news

The Balance Beam Situation has this week’s NCAA rankings and notes, and, of course, the GIFs

College Gym News brings you a Week 6 NCAA preview, a feature on UC Davis’ Keanna Abraham, and, of course, the leotard rankings

Big elite news this week: Gabrielle Douglas will compete at Winter Cup on February 24!

Douglas gave an interview to Inside Gymnastics: 

The Gymternet has a feature on Helen Kevric’s senior debut for Germany at the Cottbus World Cup. 

Take a peek at the updated Cairo World Cup roster

Joscelyn Roberson gave us a preview of a couple of bars upgrades: A new dismount and a piked Jaeger

And then Shilese Jones went and did a laid-out Jaeger. 

Iowa’s Adeline Kenlin is out for the season to repair a torn ACL. 

And finally, Claudia Fragapane of Great Britain has retired. 

Five at the IX: Jordan Chiles on GymCastic

Watch the video here, with Chiles’ interview beginning at the 6:02 mark: 

Written by Lela Moore