Simone Biles back on top with all-around win at the 2023 U.S. Classic

Simone Biles back on top with all-around win at the 2023 U.S. Classic
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732 days ago U.S. gymnast Simone Biles won her seventh Olympic medal, a bronze on the balance beam at Tokyo 2020. A medal that came after she had withdrawn from several finals to priortise her mental health, as she dealt with what gymnasts call the 'twisties' — a condition where the body and mind fall out of sync.

The 26-year-old, who owns 19 World gold medals including five all-around titles, four Olympic golds from Rio 2016 and has four elements named in her honour, could have called it a career — moved on, and enjoyed life as a newlywed.

Instead, Saturday night (5 August 2023) at the 2023 U.S. Classic outside Chicago, Biles competed for the first time since those Tokyo Games, soaring to victory and showing that despite all the accolades, all the medals and even a conversation changing decision to put herself first while competing on her sport’s biggest stage, there’s something still driving gymnastics’ brightest star.

"It felt really good, especially after everything that’s happened over past year," Biles told U.S. broadcaster NBC afterward. "Everyone that was cheering, made posters and all of that, it just made my heart melt that they still believe in me. I always kind of knew, as soon as everything that happened in Tokyo [that I'd be back]."

Biles earned 59.100 in the all-around and a five-point margin victory at the Classic. Leanne Wong (54.100) was second, followed by Joscelyn Roberson (54.050).

Simone Biles: How my return came together

Biles has spent much of the last two years out of the spotlight.

But it's also been a time of reflection.

"I believe in myself a little bit more. It’s just coming back out here and starting those first steps again," said Biles. "After everything that transpired in Tokyo, I worked on myself a lot. I still do therapy weekly. It’s just so exciting to come out here and have the confidence I had before. I feel like I lost a part of that sometimes."

Her return took shape slowly. She first was back in the gym, playing around, last September. But work committments, holidays and planning her wedding to Green Bay Packers defensive back Jonathan Owens left her feeling like she was just staying in shape.

But coach Laurent Landi had other ideas.

"I really feel like Laurent is always one step ahead of me," explained Biles. "So every time I would come into the gym, he's like, 'Okay, so I have some set routines for you.' And I'm like, 'What? I'm literally just trying to get in shape.'"

Before she knew it, leotards for the Classic were arriving.

"I'm not sure I even actually told them or we told each other. I think it was just like, we could kind of see it," said Biles. "Because then Laurent was like, 'Okay, we're competing at Classics' and I was like, 'Oh, I am okay, got it.' I think it was just like so unspoken that neither one of us wanted to say and Cecile [Landi], too, and then the leos got shipped to the gym and I was like okay, this is what I'm wearing. I guess I am competing."

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