SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — U.S. gymnast Jordan Chiles has dreamed about being a flagbearer at a major sports event since she saw her friend Simone Biles do it at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics closing ceremony. The 22-year-old managed to get her wish at the opening of the Pan American Games in Santiago on Friday.
On Sunday, the silver medalist at the Tokyo Olympics made another dream come true; to lead the U.S. women’s gymnastics team into a continental final and then to a gold medal.
The U.S. topped the all-round women’s competition with 165.196 points, with a big push from Chiles to give the Americans their sixth straight women’s team Pan American gold medal.
“There’s so many more dreams in this little body of mine,” Chiles told journalists after receiving her gold medal. “It was really cool to be the flagbearer, then coming out here to win gold with an amazing team.”
The main rival for Chiles, Kayla DiCello, Zoe Miller, Kaliya Lincoln and Tiana Sumanasekera was Brazil’s team led by Rebeca Andrade, an Olympic gold medalist and also a friend of Biles’.
“Knowing I am the veteran, I trust these younger ones,” Chiles added. “They are not that much younger than me, so being able just to see their progress and do what they did … I wouldn’t change this team for anything.”
The Brazilians scored 161.564 points. Andrade sat out the floor exercise to spare her knees, and her teammates made mistakes in the uneven bars that distanced them from the U.S. team.
Canada finished with the bronze medal with a distant 154.230 points.
Chiles topped the all-round chart with 54.666 points, 0.101 ahead of 2021 world all-around bronze medalist DiCello.
The 22-year-old American is competing in Chile as she weighs competing in the Paris Olympics or returning for her junior year at the University of California.
Possibly the biggest star competing in Chile, the 24-year-old Andrade is Brazil’s most decorated gymnast in history and is competing at the Pan American Games for the first time. She will be Chiles’ rival again in individual finals.
“Jordan is a complete gymnast, very experienced and talented,” Andrade said. “And this is a great scenario to do well. It is a bit like the Olympics although it isn’t the Olympics. When you see all the flags out in the athletes’ village you start thinking about it.”
The U.S. and Brazil are expected to once again battle for medals in women’s gymnastics in Paris.
Earlier this month, Andrade defeated Biles to take the vault gold at the world championship in Antwerp. She won two medals at the Tokyo Olympics three years ago: gold in the vault competition and silver in the all-round individual. She has nine medals in world championships, including three golds.
After beating Biles, the U.S. gymnastics federation published a picture of Andrade and Biles side by side in its social media channels. “Many more battles still to come,” the message said.
This Sunday, Andrade’s battle ended with Chiles as the winner. Her U.S. teammates said they will do whatever the veteran wants to celebrate the gold medal in Santiago. But she has a different idea.
“I think it is time to go to sleep,” Chiles said. “This is not finished.”