TAMPA — Shilese Jones finished in 10th place in the Olympic Trials a year ago, shared her feelings on Instagram, and said she was done competing in competitive gymnastics.
She decided to change her mind after speaking with family members, particularly her father. Jones postponed starting at the University of Florida until 2024 because she wants to compete in the Paris Games.
The 20-year-old has had a fantastic opening to this condensed Olympic cycle. After the first of the U.S. Championships’ two competition nights, she is in the lead in the overall standings.
She admitted, “I’ve been dreaming about it. “It was lovely.”
Jones, who has never competed in the Olympics or a world championship, won the most medals overall. As of Sunday, when national winners will be announced, she has a lead of eight tenths over 17-year-old Konnor McClain thanks to her score of 57.2 points.
Olympic medalists from Tokyo, Jordan Chiles and Jade Carey, who have competed at the highest levels since the Games, are tied for third and fifth, respectively. They also aspire to be a member of the five-woman team competing in the world championships in fall, similar to Jones and McClain. After a tryout camp in October, that roster will be announced.
Results | Broadcast Schedule for the Gymnastics Nationals
Jones, who won the floor exercise and balance beam events, said it was her best performance ever. Her USA Gymnastics bio lists just one all-around victory, which she won four years ago in her senior debut at a local tournament.
She is now in a position to become the oldest American woman to win the women’s all-around title for the first time in more over 50 years. She will be the first non-teen to win the nationals during that time, joining Simone Biles.
Biles will not be competing for the foreseeable future. The Tokyo all-around gold medallist Suni Lee is competing on the collegiate level this year with ambitions to compete at the top level again in 2019.
There aren’t many opportunities for American female gymnasts to make their first Olympic team. A little about Jones’ voyage
She had to heal from a vehicle accident for three to four months before to the Olympic Trials last year. Jones claimed that while navigating a traffic roundabout, her car was struck in the front. She sustained fractures to her foot and back.
After that, she recovered to finish tenth at the Olympic Trials. In addition to Carey, who had already qualified, USA Gymnastics sent the top nine female athletes—five team members and four alternates—to Tokyo. The highest finisher who was sent home was Jones.
In an Instagram post that has since been deleted, Jones wrote, “My heart has been torn apart in such a way that it denies to repair itself.” I sacrificed everything to get to where I am now.
After a protracted fight with kidney disease, Jones’ father Sylvester passed away five months later. Jones stated that her father’s “goal was to see me on the Olympic stage one day and he devoted anything and everything to my gymnastics” in a GoFundMe to help with funeral and travel costs. After a long day of dialysis, I was too exhausted to drive and pick me up from practices. He will do anything to help me with my gymnastics.
She posted a picture of a tattoo that said “Dad” across her shoulder on Instagram six months after he passed away. My heartbeat echoes your name.
She wrote, “These last six months have been the worst months of my life.”
To support Jones’ gymnastics career, her family moved from Seattle to Ohio roughly eight years ago. To be nearer to their extended family, they returned to Washington in January. She commemorated Sylvester’s passing on Thursday by wearing a leotard with the Roman numerals XII XX MMXXI inscribed in pink down her sleeve.
Three days after sustaining a left big toe injury that hindered her preparation, she stated of her performances, “Just to be here and have the opportunity to do that, especially for my dad and my sister and my mom and the crowd, it feels fantastic.”
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Shilese Jones is competing at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, according to an earlier version on NBCSports.com.
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