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Unsung hero and Olympic frontrunner of American gymnastics

When you think of gymnastics, you think of Simone Biles. And as Biles continues to add to her legacy as history’s most decorated gymnast, another American has made her case as one of the country’s all-time greats.

Enter Shilese Jones, a 21-year-old from Seattle, WA and the second most decorated gymnast in the United States as of 2021 (behind Biles). Although Jones competed in the 2021 Olympic Trials, her status really skyrocketed in 2022. Since becoming a two-time U.S. champion that year, Jones has earned two top three all-around finishes at the world championships, two team gold medals and two uneven bars medals.

Perhaps more impressively, Jones scored 26 of 27 appearances in an unprecedented display of consistency (a 96% hit rate). In her first major international appearances alone, she was instrumental in Team USA’s back-to-back world titles, completing all seven routines to help the USA to gold in 2022 and 2023. After her recent successes, Shilese is ranked ninth with the most awards. American gymnast in history (tied with Olympic champion Gabby Douglas), and she still has more goals to achieve.

In conversation with International gymnastJones told reporters she is keeping her childhood dream of winning the Olympic All-Around title alive. While Biles and Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade are poised to claim the top spots, Jones is one of just a handful of athletes with a legitimate shot at claiming the coveted title.

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With remarkable balletic ability, strength and her trademark consistency, Jones is spectacular in all four events. Although she is expected to compete for medals on the all-around, floor and beam, she is a top contender on bars. With elegant lines, a varied skill set and a recently improved routine, Jones should challenge for gold.

However, she doesn’t just compete with the big skills – her performs them. In an ‘artistic’ sport that is now becoming increasingly difficult, Shilese brings spectacular showmanship to the American team. Jones expressed her love for the often lost artistic component and it was telling International gymnast that artistry is something she “strives for.” It’s not just about the difficulty, but also about how clean you can make it.”

Unfortunately, Jones’ success is fueled by heartbreak. After enduring the disappointment of missing out on the Tokyo Olympic team, Shilese lost her father to kidney disease in December 2021. In an Instagram post, the then-teenager described her father as her “motivator” and vowed to continue making him proud.

If she can stay healthy, that motivation should wear her to the Olympics. With Paris approaching, fans are excitedly anticipating her return to competition at the upcoming U.S. Olympic Trials in Minneapolis. In an effort to “prioritize recovery,” Jones made the decision to withdraw from the U.S. National Championships in May, citing shoulder pain from a previously torn labrum. When asked how her shoulder felt, Jones admitted that “it hurt.” I’m not going to lie,” but added that she “didn’t give up.”

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Jones returns to the tryout phase a very different gymnast than she was three years earlier. Now that he’s a world champion, a U.S. champion and the team’s most consistent contributor, all Shilese needs to do is avoid injuries. With five spots available on the U.S. Olympic team, a healthy Shilese Jones is all but guaranteed a spot next to Biles. While only time will tell if her shoulder holds up, Jones seems determined to persevere, emphasizing “it’s all part of the journey and after (the Olympics) I can rest.”

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