It was never going to rain on Jordan Chiles’ parade.
Drizzle earlier on Sunday gave way to showers of adulation for the U.S. Olympic gymnast, who grew up in Vancouver.
Wearing the silver medal she won at the 2020 Summer Olympics last month in Tokyo, Chiles was honored with a parade through downtown Vancouver before receiving the Key to the City from Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle.
Several hundred fans and friends gathered for the ceremony outside City Hall. That was in addition to crowds who lined the parade route, which started in Uptown Village before cruising some 20 blocks down Main Street.
As Chiles passed City Hall in a classic convertible, Lauren Chitlik waved excitedly. The 16 year old and her parents had traveled from their Seattle home to see Chiles, even delaying a planned vacation to Hawaii.
A gymnast herself, Chitlik said she’s inspired that someone from Washington could ascend to the top of the sport.
“I love her enthusiasm,” she said. “You have to be training every day to get to where she is. You have to get up early. It’s your entire life.”
Chiles gained legions of fans through her resilient performance in Tokyo. After four-time gold medalist and good friend Simone Biles withdrew, citing her mental health, Chiles helped the United States win silver in the team artistic all-around competition.
It wasn’t just fans from afar who feted Chiles on Sunday. Dayna Vera, Cassidy Gardner and Allison Corral came to greet their friend and former classmate at Prairie High, from which Chiles graduated in 2019.
“I remember my sophomore year, her junior year, we talked about how (the Olympics) was where she was going to go,” Vera said. “Then she made it. It was really good to see her do that.”
Vera, Gardner and Corral led Prairie to the Class 3A state basketball championship in 2019. But their bond with Chiles goes beyond a shared appreciation of athletics.
“She gives her all to literally everything,” Gardner said. “She makes time for her sport, obviously. But outside of sports, she’s one of the best friends I could ever ask for.”
Training at Vancouver’s Naydenov Gymnastics, Chiles excelled from a young age and started competing for the U.S. Junior National Team in 2013. Her career continued to ascend, leading to international gold in the team, vault and floor competition at the 2018 Pacific Rim Championships in Colombia.
After nearly quitting the sport due to its all-consuming rigors, Chiles rediscovered her love for gymnastics after moving to Texas in 2019 to train with Biles.
In an interview Sunday, Chiles said the past few weeks have been a whirlwind. Since arriving from Tokyo, she has been at events recognizing USA Gymnastics in New York, Los Angeles and Houston, where she was honored by the Houston Astros before Friday’s Major League Baseball game.
But Chiles said Sunday’s Vancouver event was special.
“I wasn’t expecting this many people on a Sunday to be here,” Chiles said. “It makes me realize how much everybody truly supports me. I just appreciate that so much.”
Up next, Chiles and her USA teammates will travel the country for the Gold Over America Tour, a gymnastics spectacle that Chiles described as “like a pop concert, dance, LED experience.” The tour will visit 35 cities over six weeks from late September until early November. An Oct. 1 stop in Boise is the nearest to Vancouver.
After the tour, Chiles will return to college at UCLA.
“After that, we’ll see,” Chiles said. “2024 is definitely something I have thought of.”
Micah Rice: 360-735-4548, firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @col_mrice.