American Prodigies Covers the Legacy of Black Gymnasts

Blue Wire Podcast

May 2, 2022

Episode 1: We’re Inevitable

In Episode 1 of American Prodigies Season 2, Amira and Kelly visit the Gold Over America Tour (featuring Simone Biles) in Houston, Texas. For those unfamiliar, the Gold Over America Tour was the 2021 post-Olympics gymnastics tour and an electrifying celebration of powerful female athletes.

In addition to Simone Biles, the all-star team of gymnasts on tour included Jordan Chiles, MyKayla Skinner, Grace McCallum, Jade Carey, Laurie Hernandez, Katelyn Ohashi, Nia Dennis, Morgan Hurd, Ellie Black, Chellsie Memmel, Shilese Jones, and Melanié Johanna de Jesus dos Santos.

We speak with Jordan Chiles, Jasmine Swiningan, Betty Okino, Angie Denkins, Nia Dennis, attendees of the tour, and many more within the first episode

Jordan Chiles’ Journey to Success

We chatted with Jordan Chiles — Olympic silver medalist and headliner for the tour — about her gymnastics story. Like many young Black gymnasts, Jordan had a mixed journey to success.

“Gymnastics actually saved me,” she said. “I could not sit still at all whatsoever. One day, my dad said, ‘I can't control her anymore! We need to do something about it.’ So, they put me in gymnastics, and right away, I started teaching myself skills and thought it was so cool.”

At just eleven years old, Jordan went elite. She was the only Black girl on the team and, at the time, it seemed normal to her because she was used to being at an all-white school. But in 2014, everything changed.

Jordan won gold in the junior division and Simone Biles won gold in the senior division at the U.S. Classics, and gymnastics soared in popularity with Black girls. Jordan realized that she was a part of something larger and started attracting more Black girls to come to her gym. She was no longer alone.

But like many gymnasts, Jordan’s story was not without hardship. Unfortunately, she struggled with being taken advantage of by coaches and organizations who didn’t always have her best interests in mind. Listen to the full podcast episode to hear more about Jordan’s story, how she overcame these struggles, and ended up on this tour.

What’s Next on American Prodigies? Each week, American Prodigies will tell these gymnasts’ stories—like Jordan’s—unraveling what it means to be a Black girl navigating overwhelmingly white spaces, which are often demanding, exacting, and sometimes toxic spaces. Their stories consider the burden of visibility, the weight of expectation, the anguish of injury, and the joy of winning. For the first time, Black girl gymnasts (who are now Black women) openly reflect on the mental and physical cost of growing up in a sport made of prodigies.

A ton of Black girls and women are making the cultural transformation of gymnastics possible, so this season, there will be many people telling their stories. In a sport that divided and conquered and isolated athletes from each other for so long, there’s power in bringing these voices together. With interviews from gymnasts, coaches, judges, and experts—and sonically rich journeys into the past—American Prodigies will give long-time gymnastics fans new insights and grab the attention of those who normally only tune in every four years.

Further Listening

For more episodes, listen to American Prodigies on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever else you get your podcasts. Want to hear more of Jordan’s interview? Subscribe to Blue Wire’s subscription channel on Apple here. The first 7 days are free.

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