When Chantal Jordan was 4, she wasn’t picked for the competition squad in gymnastics, which meant relegation to an exhibition meet.
“That wasn’t enough. She wanted to compete,” her mom, Candace, said. “So we said we’d find a sport where she could actually compete. That was early on. She wanted to compete.”
The Jordans signed Chantal up for swimming lessons right after that. She never needed to look for another sport, and a decade later, Jordan finished third at state in the 50-yard freestyle as a freshman for North Gwinnett. As a senior, the Vanderbilt commit remains one of the state’s best sprinters, and is a versatile and valuable piece for her high school team.
For a third year in a row, Jordan has earned Iron Dog status for making state cuts in all eight individual races. It would almost certainly be four years, but North head coach Doug Nieman created the award when she was a sophomore.
“She can swim just about wherever she wants and I can count on her to do well,” Nieman said. “She’s definitely a competitor.
“On Signing Day here at North, I told the group gathered that she has an infectious smile, but don’t let that smile fool you. In her mind she’s saying, ‘I’m going to kick your … ’.”
Jordan laughed at that. But in no way disputes it.
“Yes,” she said, the infectious grin sliding away. “When I get up to the blocks, the person next to me is competition. I’m not going to hold back — and I know they’re not going to hold back.
“Ever since I was younger, I had a motivation to compete and to win. When it was summer league, I always wanted the blue ribbon. As I grew up, I always wanted the medal. I always wanted to be at the top of the podium. I guess it was the reward that came back from it, but also the feeling that you won.”
With three older brothers, including Drew, who plays football at Duke, Jordan was savvy about any sibling rivalry. Her mom didn’t have to referee any arguments over board games.
“Not like that because she was just so sweet,” Candace Jordan said. “They could talk her down. She would defer — they were so much bigger than her.
“But she would always challenge them. Even on vacation. She would say, ‘Let’s get in the pool.’”
Few people beat her in the pool. One who did, Johns Creek’s Tatum Smith, graduated after winning the 50 free for the fourth straight time at state last year.
Jordan’s reaction to talking about Smith is a good indication of the effervescent personality Nieman so appreciates. Jordan’s whole face lit up and she said, “Oh my gosh, I love her.”
“She does a great job being a kid and having fun,” Nieman said. “She does a great job being who she is. She wears it on her sleeve. It’s fun being around her because her enthusiasm is contagious.”
The high school season is one thing. Club swimming is another animal and there was a time when Jordan wasn’t so enthusiastic.
“There was a time where I wouldn’t go to practice because I wasn’t getting enough training from my coaches,” Jordan said. “I thought, ‘If they’re not going to pay attention to me, why go to practice?’ But then I wasn’t improving. I knew I needed to move somewhere else because I needed to improve and work hard. Just because I was talented didn’t mean I didn’t have to work hard.”
Her best friend, Louisville commit Tristen Ulett, had moved to Dynamo three years prior.
“I talked to her about the whole atmosphere,” Jordan said. “She told me she knew it was a place she could grow and I saw it.
“We used to be at the same pace when we were in summer league and when we were both at SwimAtlanta. We were the same type of swimmers.”
Just a few months after she finished third at state as a freshman, Jordan joined the Dynamo club at its Alpharetta location.
“The first day I got here, I was already changing my stroke and my technique,” Jordan said. “Coach Brian (Wrighton) made it a huge focus the first day. I remember I came back in the car, my parents picked me up and said, ‘How was practice?’ I was like, ‘It was amazing!’”
Her main event is such that progress is measured in fractions of a second.
“Even between those two years (finishing third at state), I was .3 faster. That’s it,” Jordan said.
But the 50 free suits her natural ability and competitive drive.
“It’s hard because it’s just up and back and you just never know,” Nieman said. “She does get nervous — just like anyone else — but I think it’s a good nervous.
“Her demeanor doesn’t change a whole lot. She does get psyched up, especially for big meets. The county meet is always a blast. It’s better than state because the atmosphere is so much better. State is almost anticlimactic. We’re all in a small pool and it echoes and things are close.”
The finals for the Gwinnett County championships, where Jordan finished second in the 50 free and third in the 100 free last year, are Saturday at West Gwinnett Aquatic Park.
“She loves to win and she loves to compete and she loves to see people do well,” Nieman said. “She knows what other people are doing and she genuinely cares. It doesn’t have to be the best on the team. She’s friends with everyone as far as I know.
“She wants the team to do well. She loves relays.”
Jordan is a peer leader at school and has a 3.8 GPA while taking AP classes. She’s also twice been named an All-American and voted a captain by her Bulldog teammates.
“At North, we have a lot of great swimmers who are smart — and they have to be for the time management,” Nieman said. “They push themselves.
“She’s stoked about going to Vanderbilt. To get to that level, you have to have some talent but, man, you have to work hard.”