When the seven-time Olympian, acclaimed as the best gymnast of all time, competes for the first time in more than two years on Saturday at the US Classic in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, a northwest Chicago suburb, all eyes will be on Simone Biles.
Since a 26-year-old from greater Houston discreetly put her name to the entry list for the customary tune-up competition before the US national championships later this month, interest has increased.
Since the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics in August 2021, when she won team silver and an individual bronze on beam while retiring from most of her event finals due to a case of the “twisties,” Biles hasn’t participated until the meet.
The Olympic all-around champion from 2016 never left the anti-doping pool after Tokyo, keeping the door open for her return. She married Green Bay Packers defensive back Jonathan Owens earlier this year. However, her return to the mat after a layoff of 732 days qualifies as a surprise because it was a closely-kept secret in the small-minded world of gymnastics.
Since USA Gymnastics announced her return with a shocking press release in June, Biles has been quiet about it. In a tweet from July, she expressed regret for being “a little MIA since the announcement” and expressed gratitude to her followers for their support. Additionally, she said in a Q&A last week on Instagram that the most difficult part of returning was twisting on every stage.
“When the twisties happen, you go right into the gym & work on it,” Biles wrote Sunday on Instagram. “I took over a year off and THEN came back… So I was petrified.
“But I’m fine. I’m twisting again. No worries. All is good.”
She was slated to compete in each of the four disciplines as of Friday. However, if rumors of her preparations are any indicator, Biles still has a lot to offer despite all attempts to slow down the hype train.
She attended a US national team camp in Texas last month and, according to Gymternet, won the all-around competition by 3.5 points with a final score of 57.65.
She won the vault, beam, and floor exercises while finishing third in her least strong discipline, the uneven bars. Her performance was sufficient to earn her a spot in the US national finals in San Jose at the end of the month and a shot at winning her seventh all-around national championship, though she has not yet indicated that she will compete.