Gymnast Shilese Jones Is Ready to Embrace Her 'All-Time Dream' of Landing on Team USA (Exclusive)

The reigning world all-around bronze medalist narrowly missed out on going to the Tokyo Games in 2021. Now, she's aiming for Paris

<p>Naomi Baker/Getty</p>

Naomi Baker/Getty

Shilese Jones is locked in and ready to realize her “all-time dream” of representing Team USA at the Paris Olympics!

“I feel like the countdown's so real and it's just right here,” Jones, 21, tells PEOPLE exclusively less than three months before the Summer Games, while discussing her partnership with Pvolve. “I feel like just listening to my coach and my training plan and being smart with the gymnastics and training … [I’m] working hard and kind of doing whatever it takes.”

She adds, “Now we're at this point where it's just like you're all locked in and it's a 100% either go or you're not in. So definitely locked in and focused. My all-time dream would be to make the Olympic team, so just thinking about that every morning and carrying that with me to the gym.”

Yet the reigning world all-around bronze medalist — whose high-flying routines on the uneven bars have gone viral — says there’s always room for improvement.

Related: Simone Biles Was 'Emotional' After Winning World Championship, Becomes Most Decorated Gymnast of All-Time

“I'm such a perfectionist, so obviously nothing's going to be perfect in the competition,” Jones tells PEOPLE. “The more videos I see of my competitions, I'm like, ‘Oh, this could have been better. That could have been better,’ but it is very cool.”

With the U.S. Gymnastics Championships set for the end of May in Fort Worth and then the Olympic Trials in June in Minneapolis, Jones says she’s confident heading into the final weeks before the team is selected.

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“We all are definitely trying to fight for a spot, have our different strengths, but I feel like I bring the consistency side for sure, [especially] the artistic side,” she says. “They're looking for so many things, but over the years, I feel I've proven myself for sure, and that's something that stands out for me.”

In 2021, Jones came up short in her bid to make Team USA, finishing 10th at the Tokyo U.S. Olympic team trials.

Months earlier, she fractured her back and foot in a car accident, and her recovery virtually coincided with the preparation for nationals, where she finished 12th.

With an eye to keeping her fitness top-tier, Jones is working with Pvolve, the low-impact routine that fuses functional fitness with resistance-based equipment.



“I feel like it's not just the physical pounding that we do on our body, flinging from bar to bar and sticking our landings, but definitely outside having that strength and equipment to just absorb my body,” Jones says. “I definitely feel like it has helped my body and my strength … it’s helped my shoulder and ankle for example, get into my recovery a little bit faster.”

After Jones missed landing a spot on the U.S. Olympic team three years ago, it was followed by an even more personal loss — the death of her father Sylvester after a battle with kidney disease.

Related: Simone Biles Secures Gold for Team USA at 2023 World Championships, Making History Again

While grieving his death, Jones says she has come to terms with the mental aspect — which very much goes hand-in-hand with her acrobatic feats.

“Gymnastics is all about mental, not just physical, but mental is for sure,” she says. “And if your mental's not in it that day, that's super-hard to carry yourself and carry the weight of your shoulders and present out to the audience.”

In 2022, Jones and her mother Latrice Bryant and her two sisters moved back to her native Seattle after years of training in Ohio.

“My family and I have overcome so much, it's different challenges every single day and even just not even having a male figure in our life anymore,” Jones tells PEOPLE. “But it's a fight to the finish for us all.”

As her Instagram handle professes, Shi can fly — and she knows it.

“I sit back sometimes, I'm like, this is amazing,” she says about reminiscing on her accomplishments thus far. “And competing at the world stage and looking back at those videos and memories just mean a lot to me and my training, and I feel like it just boosts my confidence going into this year for sure.”

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