All eyes will be on Simone Biles as she competes for the first time in more than two years on Saturday at the US Classic in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, in the northwest Chicago suburbs. The seven-time Olympic medalist has been dubbed “the greatest gymnast of all time.”
Since the 26-year-old from greater Houston surreptitiously put her name to the entry list for the annual tune-up tournament ahead of the US national championships later this month, the expectation has grown. The meet will be Biles’ first competition since the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics in August 2021, where she won team silver and individual bronze on beam while withdrawing from the majority of her event finals due to a bout of the ‘twisties,’ a dangerous phenomenon in which gymnasts lose their sense of spatial awareness.
The 2016 Olympic all-around champion, who married Green Bay Packers defensive back Jonathan Owens earlier this year, never left the anti-doping pool after Tokyo, keeping the door open for a return. Her return to the mat after a 732-day hiatus, a well guarded secret in the insular world of gymnastics, is still a surprise.
Biles hasn’t said much about her return since USA Gymnastics made it official with a shocking press statement in June. In July, she apologised for being “a little MIA since the announcement” and thanked her fans for their support in a tweet. And then there was last week’s Instagram Q&A, in which she revealed that twisting at every event was the most difficult part of her comeback.
“When the twisties happen, you go right into the gym & work on it,” Biles posted on Instagram on Sunday. “I took a year off and THEN returned… As a result, I was terrified.
“However, I’m alright. I’m turning once more. Not to worry. “Everything is fine.”
She was set to compete in all four disciplines as of Friday. But, despite her best efforts to stall the hype train, Biles still has a lot to offer, if rumours of her preparations are any indication.
According to Gymternet, she competed in a US national team camp in Texas last month, winning the all-around by 3.5 points with a total score of 57.65. She won the vault, beam, and floor exercises while finishing third on the uneven bars, which has typically been her weakest discipline. That performance qualified her for the US national championships at the end of the month in San Jose, where she will compete for her eighth all-around national crown, however she has yet to confirm her participation.