Biles Is Back – Simone Biles Wins First Meet Since Tokyo Olympics

Biles Is Back – Simone Biles Wins First Meet Since Tokyo Olympics

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Sunday, August 6 

Biles Is Back – Simone Biles Wins First Meet Since Tokyo Olympics

If the stuck Yurchenko double pike that made the crowd in NOW Arena erupt during warm ups (aka the vault heard around the world) wasn’t enough of a statement, Simone Biles took it to the stratosphere on her final event to capture the 2023 Core Hydration All-Around crown. Yes, Biles is back. And she means business. 

For the first time since the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the 7-time Olympic medalist and 25-time World Championships medalist returned to the competition floor and looked as if she never left, coming away with the top score of the day on vault (15.4), beam (14.8) and floor (14.9). Her score of 59.100 in the All-Around is not only the highest All-Around score put up by any gymnast this year, but edged out silver medalist Leanne Wong by five points. 

Following her wedding in May, Biles focused on a return to competition and entered the Core Hydration Classic with very little fanfare at first – her name simply appeared on the roster. Suddenly back in the spotlight but on her terms with a focus on her health and happiness, Biles has only been in the gym training seriously for several months, but with her performance tonight you would never know it. She was the absolute class of the field from start to finish, brilliantly balancing everyone’s expectations as the greatest gymnast of all time with supreme confidence and most importantly, belief in herself. 

“Everything has fallen into place,” Biles said. “I feel really good about where I’m at right now mentally and physically. I still think there are some things to work on in my routines but I think for the first meet back, I’d say it went pretty well … I feel a lot better now that that’s out of the way!”

The last time the world saw Biles on the competition floor, she was forced out of five Olympic finals, unable to perform any twisting elements due to a mental block, though she would battle back to capture a bronze on balance beam, her only individual medal at the Games. On Friday she was back centerstage, and as soon as she finished her first set during podium training here in Hoffman Estates, the emotions hit. 

“As soon as I did that first full out on bars everybody was screaming so loud,” Biles said. “I was like, ‘I’m twisting again!’ Just to have that support means the world and I think that’s when we got emotional.” 

In the past, Biles said pressure from the people around her to be the “gold medal token” would prohibit her from focusing on doing her job. This time around, Biles said she’s doing this 100% for her. 

“I’m a little bit older, a little more mature. At this point, nobody is forcing me out here. This is truly for me and nobody else. I also don’t have the weight of going back to back Olympic All-Around Champion, so I feel better about that. Kind of taking a fresh start in everything.”

Leanne Wong’s return to the Elite stage came after another successful NCAA season with the Florida Gators. With a newfound sense of confidence and her trademark artistry and beautiful technique on every event on full display, Wong finished second to Biles with a 54.1 in the All-Around, in addition to posting the second highest floor score of the competition with a 13.5.  Working back to full difficulty with upgrades on display, if Wong continues on this trajectory into San Jose and beyond, watch out! What stood out to us most about Wong in this competition was how relaxed she looked – truly in the moment and enjoying every minute.

Joscelyn Roberson, who led the competition after session one, held on to grab the first All-Around medal of her career as a senior (54.050). Roberson is having the season of her life and continues to make a statement not only for spot on the World Team in September but a spot on Team USA in 2024. With world-class difficulty and a confidence that seems to be growing with each outing, she’s in the conversation for sure, no question.

Together with Biles, eyes around the world were on reigning Olympic Champion Suni Lee to not only see how she would handle the pressure of her first Elite competition since the Tokyo Olympics, but how prepared she would be following time out of the gym while battling a kidney issue. Lee told the press following podium training that she didn’t have any expectations for herself coming into this competition, she simply wanted to get back out on the competition floor. Only competing on vault and beam, Lee took home the silver medal on beam with a 14.5 and earned her spot to compete at the U.S. Championships in two weeks. Due to meeting the two event qualifying score of  26.4, Suni will be able to petition to compete in the All-Around at that event. 

Zoe Miller had the highest bar score of the entire competition with a 14.750 on bars. Miller’s bar routine could be a game-changer for Team USA as the picture comes together heading into Antwerp in the fall for the World Championships and next year for Paris. If she can continue to consistently hit in competition, she could very well add her name to the list of contenders.

Competition at the 2023 Core Hydration Classic continues tomorrow with the junior and senior men at 11:45 a.m. ET. The competition will be streamed on the USA Gymnastics YouTube.

Photos by Lloyd Smith for Inside Gymnastics 

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