Simone Biles makes triumphant return to gymnastics

American star impresses during US Classic in Chicago

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Simone Biles made a memorable return to gymnastics in Chicago, dominating the US Classic in what was her first competitive event since the Tokyo Olympics two years ago.

The sold-out crowd, including many young gymnasts, cheered every time Biles took the podium. The star gymnast was grateful for all the support.

"It just makes my heart warm because it's nice to come out here and have all that support, especially in a time like this where I was really nervous to compete again," Biles said.

The "twisties," which cut short Biles' Tokyo run, were nowhere in sight on Saturday as the gymnast appeared back to her top form.

During that break she prioritised her mental health, which became a major focus following her abrupt withdrawal from the team finals in Tokyo. "I’m still continuing to work on myself and go to therapy," Biles said.

Biles, a 19-time world champion, put in a stunning performance, receiving an all-around judges' total score of 59.100 points.

"Tonight went really well," Biles said. "Everything has fallen into place. I feel really good about where I am now mentally and physically.

"I still think there are some things to work on in my routine but, for the first meet back, I would say it went pretty well. I'm very shocked and surprised. I'm very happy now that that is out of the way."

Biles said she was nervous but that the meet didn't feel much different than earlier ones. She began on the uneven bars, where her strong performance received a score of 14.000 points, third-best overall.

She followed by going first on balance beam and delivering a spectacular 14.800, the meet's top score.

Biles went last in rotation three on floor exercise and drew cheers during and after every tumbling run, her flips and landings on incredible passes bringing a roar at the finish of an effort that was rewarded with a meet-best 14.900 points.

She finished on vault and unleashed another epic performance, soaring high and landing well - showing no signs of rust from the long layoff in earning a meet-best 15.400 score.

"After every routine, it got a little bit easier," Biles said.

Leanne Wong, 19, finished second, five points off the pace on 54.100, with 17-year-old Joscelyn Roberson third on 54.050.

The meet was the last chance to qualify for the US nationals in three weeks at San Jose, California, and Biles is also hoping to compete for a title in Antwerp in October at the World Championships.

Biles used the US Classic as her comeback meet in 2018 after a lengthy break following her starring role at the 2016 Rio Olympics, which included gold in all-around, vault, floor and team.

While Biles has not announced if she will be making a bid to compete at next year's Paris Olympics, her superb comeback spectacle at the Classic at 26 could be a first stride in that direction.

Biles said trying not to get too far ahead. Making it a point to enjoy what she called the “little wins.”

“I knew I could come back and hopefully have a shot,” she said. “It’s just about really taking care of my body right now. So that’s what we’re to. It’s working.”

Updated: August 06, 2023, 9:08 AM