HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Simone Biles is back.
Two years and one day after taking bronze on balance beam at the delayed Tokyo Olympics in August 2021, the four-time gold medalist returned to gymnastics in earnest at the Core Hydration Classic outside Chicago on Friday morning.
During the first session of podium training ahead of Saturday’s meet, Biles performed portions of a new floor routine, landing her signature Biles I — a double layout with a half twist — as well as a double layout and a double twisting double back. She also looked solid on uneven bars and balance beam, eliciting a louder response from the small crowd gathered inside the NOW Arena with each element.
“She can do everything that she was doing before,” Biles’ coach Cecile Landi said Friday. “We just adjusted the routines to use the new code of points and make it as mentally and physically comfortable as she can handle.”
The meet is the final qualifier for the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, which will be held in San Jose, California, on Aug. 24-27.
As impressive as she looked all around, Biles was the most striking on vault, where she completed three attempts at the Yurchenko double pike — a double-flipping skill that she is the only woman to land in competition. She improved with each attempt, landing awkwardly and sitting down on the first, over-rotating the second and stepping back on the third.
How many angles do you want to see of Simone’s YDP?
— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) August 4, 2023
Biles had planned to perform the Yurchenko double pike at the Tokyo Olympics, but withdrew from the team and all-around competition with what is known in the sport as the “twisties” — a dangerous mental block that causes a gymnast to lose spatial awareness while performing twisting elements.
Because Biles did not compete in the vault in Tokyo, that specific move is still not in the sport’s code of points — although it would be the most difficult vault in women’s gymnastics — and it is not named for her.
“That was the first time she is doing it since podium training at the Olympic Games, on the hard landing,” coach Laurent Landi said of the skill after training. “Today’s been good.”
Biles, 26, did not speak to the media after training but was loose throughout the morning, waving at fans and joking with her teammates.
Although she has shared little about her motivation for returning to competitive gymnastics outside of a few videos from the gym on social media, Biles’ skills are speaking for themselves.
“We wouldn’t be here if we had seen any hesitation,” Cecile Landi said when asked if Biles was still having issues with specific skills or hesitating on any twisting elements. “It’s her will to be here and as long as she tells us she’s good to go, we will continue.”
The coach said that Biles had been in the gym for a while but started approaching her comeback with more intensity after her wedding to NFL safety Jonathan Owens in May.
“I had dinner with her and she told me she really wanted to give herself a chance to do it,” Landi said. “After her wedding, after everything was over, we saw a shift in her training and commitment to being back. She really wants it for herself. She’s a married woman. She’s mature. We are here to support her.”