How Shilese Jones Dominated Gymnastics After Breaking Her Ankle, Back In A Car Accident

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Shilese Jones has her eyes on the prize. The 21-year-old gymnast is a favorite to compete with Team USA this summer at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. This is a lifelong dream: The Seattle, Washington, native has been practicing for this since she was just 4 years old, per E! Online.

But Olympic gold isn't only her goal—it's also her dad's. Shilese's father, Sylvester Jones, died in 2021, inspiring her to train even harder for Paris after a devastating car accident upended her life during that same year.

"It wouldn't just be for me and my team, but also for my dad," she told E! in 2023. Her dad "was the one that was in the [gymnastics] gym day in and day out, so it definitely would go out to him," she added.

Here's everything to know about Shilese Jones' car accident.

Shilese got into a bad car accident in 2021.

At the beginning of 2021, Shilese seemed like sure choice for Team USA, who competed in the Tokyo Olympics that summer after the Games were pushed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But in January, Shilese was hit during a bad car accident, which broke her ankle and her back, she told NBC Sports.

"It was devastating," she shared.

Although she "didn't really feel confident in herself," Shilese decided to compete in the Olympic Trials in June of that year. She finished tenth, just missing out on a spot on Team USA.

Her dad died from kidney disease the same year.

During that same year, Shilese lost her father Sylvester Jones after a long battle with kidney disease. He had diabetes and underwent both kidney and pancreas transplants, Shilese told NBC Sports.

"Dad you were my everything my right hand to hold, my motivation, someone to talk to and a shoulder to lean on," she wrote in a December 2021 Instagram post, along with a photo of them embracing on a bed. "You and I had a bond no one else could break. It was devastating seeing and knowing how much pain you were in everyday, and being unable to cure it for you."

Shilese added that she's "going to continue to make you proud🥲 Just as you would want me to!"

Shilese came back even stronger in 2022.

After a rocky 2021, Shilese dominated the competition the next year. She helped lead her team to become world champions in 2022 and 2023, earning individual silver and bronze medals for the all around and uneven bars, per her Team USA bio. She even became the United States' uneven bars champion in 2023.

According to Shilese, this is just par for the course, telling International Gymnast, "I'm a big fighter."

"I would say I’m stronger overall, mentally and physically. I got in a car accident in 2021 so I wasn’t fully where I wanted to be, but I wanted to put my best foot out there," she added. "I’ve been learning from other athletes and really pushing myself. It’s never the end."

She’s going for gold in honor of her dad.

Ultimately, Sylvester inspired Shilese to pursue her Olympic dreams once again.

"It was actually my dad. He was like, 'I'm going to believe in you that you can go to 2024," she told NBC Sports. "That's kind of when it clicked in, and I was like, 'You know what, Dad? I can.'"

Now, Shilese is going to try as hard as she can at the 2024 Olympic Trials, which take place in June in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

"Going out there and really being on the Olympic stage of Paris would probably be the best," Shilese told E! "I've worked my whole career to get where I'm at today, so just all the hard work, probably a lot of tears, emotions, just soaking it all in."

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