Shilese Jones poses for a photo during the medal ceremony following the women's all-around final at the 2022 Gymnastics World Championships on Nov. 3, 2022 in Liverpool, England.
Had things gone as planned, Shilese Jones would be in Gainesville now, preparing to start her freshman season with the Florida Gators gymnastics team.
The past year was anything but as expected.
Her performance at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team Trials left a sour taste in her mouth. Then, in December, her dad Sylvester passed away following a long battle with kidney disease. College could wait, Jones decided. Instead she headed back to her home state of Washington to take another shot at the Olympics.
It’s off to a good start.
On Thursday, the 20-year-old Jones scored 55.399 points to claim the women’s all-around silver medal at the World Gymnastics Championships in Liverpool, England. With a complete performance in her first major championship meet, Jones finished 1.5 points behind winner Rebeca Andrade of Brazil, the reigning Olympic silver medalist.
Jessica Gadirova of Great Britain finished third with 55.199 points, while fellow American Jade Carey scored 54.698 to take sixth, improving two spots from her performance at last year’s Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
With Jones’ medal, the U.S. has now had a woman on the all-around podium at every world championships going back to 2003. Including the Olympics, the last time a global championship wrapped up without an American woman on the all-around podium was the 2001 world championships.
The medal is also Jones’ second so far in Liverpool, after she helped the U.S. team win its record sixth consecutive gold medal on Tuesday. She’ll have an opportunity to add another in the uneven bars final on Saturday.
Jones moved up to the sport’s senior level in 2018 and quickly found success, finishing fifth at that year’s national championships while winning a team gold medal at the Pan American Games. The next step in her career never came. After finishing 10th at the Olympic trials last year in St. Louis, she was left off the Olympic team and forced to confront her future.
Conversations with teammates on the post-Olympics Gold Over America Tour convinced her she had more to prove in her elite career. She also said she wanted to take another go at the Olympics, competing in part to honor her father’s memory.