Simone Biles dominates U.S. Classic, qualifies for national championships in long-awaited return to competition

Aug 5, 2023; Hoffman Estates, Illinois, USA; Simone Biles reacts while warming up before the Core Hydration Classic at NOW Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Simone Biles made her triumphant return at the U.S. Classic. (Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports)

Simone Biles is officially back.

The four-time Olympic gold medalist made her long-awaited return to competition on Saturday at the Core Hydration Classic at Hoffman Estates, Illinois, where her Olympic teammates Suni Lee, Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles were also competing in select competitions.

Biles entered the event looking to qualify for the U.S. national championships next month, but did so much more. She blew out the all-around competition with a total score of 59.100 to re-establish herself among the sport’s elite. Florida’s Leanne Wong finished second at 54.100, while rising star Joscelyn Roberson was third with 54.050.

For perspective, the winning score in the Olympic all-around competition in 2021 was 57.433.

Biles got her best score, 15.400, on the vault with a Yurchenko double pike, a skill which will be named after her once she lands it in international competition. You can see the joy coursing through her after landing:

You could hear the joy from the stands as well. The Now Arena crowd was going wild when Biles hit the Yurchenko double pike in practice, but saved its biggest cheers for the competition.

Biles didn’t win the individual competition because she only completed one vault, but she also took home wins in the floor exercise and balance beam.

It was a triumph for a gymnast whose future in the sport was in question after Tokyo, where she entered as the overwhelming favorite to win a second straight all-around gold medal. Instead, America learned what the “twisties” were.

Biles dropped out of the team competition after balking on the vault and didn’t return until the final individual event, the balance beam, where she won bronze. Her experience, in which she was unable to pull off skills in practice she had been landing for years, showed the mental strain that elite athletes can experience.

Biles spent the next two years out of competition, instead working on herself by going to therapy, going on vacation and getting married to Green Bay Packers defensive back Jonathan Owens. Her return was rumored for months after fans noticed her in the background of teammates’ training videos, but only confirmed in late June.

As she told the CNBC broadcast, she’s still a work in progress:

“After everything that transpired in Tokyo, I worked on myself a lot. I still do therapy weekly. It’s just been so exciting to come out here and have the confidence I had before that, especially after everything that happened. Reading those comments, everybody still celebrating me and wanting me to do so well, it means the world because I feel like a lost a part of that.”

Up next for Biles will be the national championships in San Jose later this month. She didn’t confirm her status for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, but indicated she was headed that way:

“We’re still in the working steps. My main goal was this and then championships, and then after that we’re onto worlds, and then we’ll see. So far it’s heading in the right direction, but I still have to work on myself. I’m still going to do my therapy, I’m going to put myself first.”

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