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Olympic gymnast Jordan Chiles opened up about the less than glamorous side of being an elite athlete on a recent episode of Taraji P. Henson's Facebook Watch series Peace of Mind With Taraji. During the segment, the 20-year-old Olympian talked about the pressure Black athletes face in a sport that scores based on a certain body type.
“I've always thought race was something that was in gymnastics," she admitted. "Race, how your body looks. For instance, like, I have a butt. Some others might not. So we can be in a perfect handstand, and they can still take a deduction. So ... yeah, I wish judging wasn't on one body type. And I think that's where all the political and racism come into the matter.”
In addition to the struggles brought upon by race, Chiles also noted the mental health toll on many gymnasts throughout their careers, even at a young age. Thanks to Simone Biles and even the tennis star Naomi Osaka, mental health has become a hot topic in the world of sports and this issue has called attention to many toxic practices that have had disheartening effects on countless athletes.
“So I had a coach verbally abusing me," Chiles recalled. "She called me 'fat.' She said I 'looked like a doughnut.' To the little-littlest things that people asking me, ‘Oh, you're eating this today.’ And it's like, ‘Well, I'm not eating because you just triggered my brain.’ And it was really, really hard on me. Because I was just like, ‘This is ridiculous. Like, what have I put myself through?’ But I was also enjoying it at the same time. So it was, like, half of my brain was telling me one thing, and half of my brain was telling me another.”
She explained the huge impact this had on her mental health, saying she "didn't know who I was. I was trying to be other people that I wasn't." And after considering quitting numerous times, her mother encouraged her to seek therapy, something that would change her life.
"I went to a sports psychologist," she said. "So I was able to actually speak out and I was like, 'I never told anybody any of this ever.' And she was like 'Well, that's why I'm here.' So she helped me through everything and I wish I would have done that when I was younger."