By Jo-Ann Barnas
PITTSBURGH – Of the multiple ways to mark the growth of junior gymnast Jordan Chiles going into Thursday’s first day of the P&G Gymnastics Championships, two in particular stand out above the rest.
The first is how she has elevated her training in the weeks since winning the junior all-around title at the Secret U.S. Classic on Aug. 2 in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
“My mind is going crazy fast, it’s so fun learning a thing after a thing,” the 13-year-old eighth-grader from Vancouver, Wash., said with a giggle. “My goal here is to do the same thing I did at Secret, and hope for the best. My goal is to make the national team.”
Chiles is soaring in other ways, having completed a major growth spurt. She has sprouted 2 ½ inches in last past four months; Chiles currently stands 4 feet, 7 inches.
With reigning U.S. junior champion Bailie Key out of the U.S. Championships because of injury, Chiles considers herself among the contenders for the junior title. So does Erika Bakacs, who coaches Chiles at Naydenov Gymnastics in Vancouver.
But only time will tell, Bakacs cautioned.
“She has her dream, but we must live in the present,” said Bakacs, who was a member of the Romanian national team from 1969-72. “I tell her that we are focusing only on today – not on the outcome. Point your toe and the skill will be there.”
Chiles has had a big year so far. After a couple of impressive showings at the USA Gymnastics National Team Training Center in February in Huntsville, Texas, she was named to the Jesolo Trophy in March in Venice, Italy, where she placed sixth in the all-around and was second in vault.
She said her biggest confidence booster, though, was winning the Secret Classic all-around title with a score of 57.350. She also won vault.
Back home in Vancouver, Chiles has been working on new skills on floor exercise that aren’t quite competition ready, according to her coach, including a front triple twist and a back 3 ½ layout twist.
“These are skills for the future,” Bakacs said.
Chiles, who turned 13 on April 15, is too young to compete at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. She said she hopes her “dream’’ takes her to Tokyo and the 2020 Summer Games.
There’s other news to report: Chiles recently found out that her braces could be removed as early as February 2015.
“I have a lot happening in my life,” she said with a smile.