Jordan Chiles thought the Team USA coach was joking when she was asked to replace Simone Biles in the team all-around
Simone Biles (right) holds the hands of Team USA teammate Jordan Chiles. Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports
Simone Biles withdrew from the Olympic team all-round final on Tuesday for psychological reasons.
Jordan Chiles started to replace her teammate from Team USA on the uneven bars and balance beam.
Chiles told NBC's Maria Taylor that she thought her coach was kidding about replacing Biles.
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Jordan Chiles was the hero Team USA didn't need on Tuesday.
The 20-year-old gymnast took a big step forward when the American superstar Simone Biles withdrew from the Olympic team all-around final for psychological reasons.
But just before Chiles had the strongest clutch performance of their gymnastics career, Chiles didn't really believe what was happening around them.
Jordan Chile. AP Photo / Gregory Bull
"I was shocked. I was overwhelmed," said Chile's Maria Taylor of NBC. "After she made her jump, Cecile [Landi] came over and said, 'Jordan pick up your holds.' I was so shocked that I didn't know if she was serious or not. So I just tried, 'What am I doing?' "
"And then she told me and I thought, this is where I really have to pull myself together and do that," she added.
So she did.
Jordan of Chiles competes on the balance beam during the all-around final of the women's gymnastics team in Tokyo. Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports
Chiles acted as the first emergency substitute for Biles in the second round of the finals and competed far from their strongest event on the uneven bars. Just days after a shaky performance in qualifying, she scored 14.166 - relatively low by American standards, but higher than the vast majority of the field.
In the following rotation, she nailed her replacement role again. Chile's 13,433 balance beam was expected to be the lowest figure in the American contingent. But it was good enough to defeat Russians Vladislava Urazova and Angelina Melnikova - who later won gold with the Russian Olympic Committee - and help Team USA stay afloat.
Both appearances were remarkable considering she had prepared at the last second.
Jordan Chiles competes on the uneven bars instead of Simone Biles. Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports
"I wasn't supposed to be doing bars and bars so I didn't know what was going to happen - whether she was going to continue or not," said Chiles.
"At that moment we all panic," she added. "But at the same time we knew we had to put something together and calm down because we had a job to do."
Together with teammates Sunisa Lee and Grace McCallan, Chiles put in a series of sensational performances to lead Team USA to second place.
Although it was the first time since 2012 that the Americans were not on the podium, the trio's silver medal felt more like a triumph than a loss.
The gymnasts of Team USA pose with their silver medals from the team all-round competition. AP Photo / Natacha Pisarenko
Chiles and McCallum's runs in Tokyo ended Tuesday, but Biles and Lee will return to the gym on Thursday for the individual all-around final.
Should Biles decide to participate, the 24-year-old will try to defend her individual all-around title from 2016.
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