By Eric Levenson, CNN
(CNN) — There’s no replacing Simone Biles. But her teammate and confidante Jordan Chiles was tasked with trying.
Chiles, a 20-year-old elite gymnast in her own right, picked up the GOAT’s mantle on Team USA after USA Gymnastics said Biles withdrew from the women’s team gymnastics final event due to a medical issue.
Only Biles, Suni Lee and Jade Carey had been expected to compete in the team final, but Chiles stepped up to fill Biles’ place.
Chiles scored a 14.666 on the vault, a 14.166 on the uneven bars, a 13.433 on the balance beam and a costly 11.700 on floor exercise. Team USA won the silver medal, and the Russian Olympic Committee took the top spot in an upset.
For Chiles, the fill-in performance was all part of an unusual road to the Olympics.
Born in Tualatin, Oregon, and raised in Vancouver, Washington, Chiles is the youngest of five siblings and was a preternatural gymnast. Before getting any gymnastics training, she would cartwheel down the aisle of any open space or walk on her hands, according to her online biography.
Chiles was named after Michael Jordan, and her family nicknamed her “Chick” because she looked like Chicken Little when she wore her T-ball helmet, according to NBC Sports.
“Chick” rose through the ranks of the gymnastics world. But around 2017 and 2018, she hit a wall and became unhappy with gymnastics, according to The New York Times.
“I didn’t think the sport wanted me anymore,” Chiles told the Times. “So I went in the opposite direction.”
She finished 11th place in the all-around at the US Championships in 2018 and considered hanging things up for good. That’s when Biles called and invited her to train at the star’s gym in Texas, which offered a less strict environment. Chiles packed up and moved.
“I discovered that gymnastics doesn’t always have to be about strictness and being so hard on yourself and having so much doubt,” she told the Times. “I actually realized this when I saw Simone compete. She looks like she’s having fun out there, laughing and giggling, and doesn’t look stressed or tired. I was like, ‘You know, I’m going to try that one of these days and see how it turns out.'”
The move has proved a hit for Chiles’ gymnastics career.
Chiles finished first in the all-around at the Winter Cup in February. At the US Gymnastics Championships in June, Biles won her record seventh national women’s all-around title while Chiles finished in third with a score of 114.450.
Chiles similarly finished in third in the all-around at the US Olympic Trials to secure her spot on the national team.
Her performance in Tokyo started off rocky. At qualifiers on Sunday, she fell off the balance beam during her routine and fell again on her dismount. Afterward, Biles came over to her to offer comfort and words of encouragement.
Chiles wrote on Instagram: “yesterday wasn’t the meet of my life but I do have to say I learned a lot from it and ready to go out and show the world why I am here. Thank you to everyone, from my family all the way to my fans. I appreciate you!!!!”
She is set to attend UCLA in the fall.
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