Simone Biles is chasing yet more gymnastics history at the US championships this week, where the four-time Olympic champion could become the first to win eight US national all-around titles.
The 26-year-old Texan made a triumphant return to competition after a two-year hiatus at the US Classic earlier this month, electrifying a sellout crowd in suburban Chicago as she posted an all-around score of 59.100 points – five more than runner-up Leanne Wong.
An all-around title on Sunday in San Jose, California, would see her break the 90-year-old record set by Alfred Jochim when he won his seventh in 1933, a record matched by Biles in 2021.
She could also become the oldest US women’s all-around champion since USA Gymnastics was founded in 1963.
Biles, a 19-time world champion, had missed two years of elite competition after her tumultuous campaign at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
She arrived in Tokyo as an Olympic star, widely expected to crown her legacy with a successful defense of her 2016 Olympic all-around title.
Instead, her challenge unravelled, and after struggling in early rounds of the team competition she withdrew citing mental health issues that would also prompt her withdrawal from the all-round as well as vault, uneven bars and floor exercise before she earned a bronze in balance beam.
Biles said she was suffering from the “twisties” – the phenomenon in which gymnasts become disoriented and lose their sense of where they are in the air. Her decision to withdraw from competition was widely hailed as a watershed moment for the issue of mental health in elite sports.
After her US Classic win, Biles proclaimed herself “in a really good spot.”
Despite some early nerves. she looked her old, brilliant self, especially in landing the most difficult vault in women’s gymnastics, the Yurchenko double pike.
The women’s competition on Friday and Sunday in San Jose will offer an even better yardstick as to how Biles measures up against a field that features 2002 world all-around silver medallist Shilese Jones, reigning Olympic all-around champion Sunisa Lee and fellow Olympians Jordan Chiles and Jade Carey.
Eight women, including the top two finishers, will be invited to a USA Gymnastics world team selection camp in September. From there, a five-woman team will be chosen for the World Championships in Antwerp – all pointing toward the 2024 Paris Olympics