It was a familiar sight – Simone Biles twisting though the air, effortlessly and powerfully completing routines no other female gymnast has ever landed in competition.
Even after a long absence from competition, there is an assuredness to her performance and the four-time Olympic gold medalist is now just four routines away from a record eighth US national all-around title after she ended the opening day of the US Gymnastics Championships in first place with a score of 59.3 – 2.75 points ahead of the field.
An eighth title for Biles would break the record that she currently shares with Alfred Jochim, who won his seventh title 90 years ago in 1933. She would also become the oldest woman to win the championships.
It was a remarkable performance on Friday, capped by an almost perfect Yurchenko double pike on the vault, which has never been landed in competition by another female gymnast, according to Reuters.
“Beams started off a little bit rough, but that’s kind of to be expected. You get your nerves out of the way and then after that, it was pretty smooth sailing,” Biles told the Peacock broadcast when asked about her performance. “Pretty happy with the overall meet.”
When asked what drives her to win the historic eighth title, Biles said, “I think I just have personal goals that I want to meet and keep pushing for so that’s what I’m aiming for.”
The 26-year-old returned to action earlier this month, winning in triumphant fashion at the Core Hydration Classic.
She recorded the top score in three of the four apparatus – vault, floor and balance beam – to stamp her authority on the event and will be seeking to do the same on Sunday.
World all-around silver medalist Shilese Jones sits in second place going into the competition’s second day while Skye Blakely is in third.
Biles is the most decorated gymnast in US history, winning 32 medals across the Olympics and the world championships.
She continues her return to competitive gymnastics after a two-year hiatus following the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 when she pulled out of several events suffering from what is known as the “twisties” – a mental block that causes gymnast to lose track of their positions in midair.
How to watch
Day two of the U.S. Gymnastics Championships begins at 3.30 p.m. PST (6.30 p.m. ET/11.30 p.m. UK time) on Sunday.
Biles will begin on vault, before taking on the uneven bars, balance beam and finishing on floor.
Coverage of the competition will be domestically broadcast on NBC and Peacock, while international viewers can watch the event on the USA Gymnastics YouTube channel.