Simone Biles is officially back.
At the Core Hydration Classics in suburban Chicago on Saturday night, she looked as comfortable as she ever has on the mat. Competing in her first gymnastics event since the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Biles easily won the all-around title as well as the gold for vault, beam and floor. On the uneven bars, often considered her weakest event, she took second.
Between events, the four-time Olympic gold medalist danced with her teammates and did a synchronized celebration with Jordan Chiles to celebrate her vault. According to Biles, though, looks were deceiving.
“I thought I was going to s–t bricks! I was very nervous. So at least if it looked like I was having fun, that’s good. But I think after every routine, it got a little bit easier. And usually my power events, vault and floor, before I go in, I’m like, ‘OK, I know I’m gonna make these,'” Biles said.
“I think this was the complete opposite in trainings. I’ve been making all my bar sets, all my beam sets. So that’s kind of a complete 180 for me. So to get out there on floor and vault, I was like, ‘Ooh, how’s this gonna go?’ I’ve been making them, but not as confident. So getting back in that groove and just having fun and remembering that I’m here for myself.”
Finding confidence is a big part of the Classics. Biles wasn’t the only gymnast who used this event to find a way back to the floor before the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Suni Lee, Chiles and Jade Carey — all Olympic medalists who have moved on to NCAA competition — competed to rediscover some comfort at the elite level again. Leanne Wong, an alternate for the 2021 Olympics, has been competing at the college level, as well. She took second at Classics, as she vies for a spot on the United States’ 2024 Olympic team.
Gymnasts will head to San Jose for the U.S. Championships at the end of August. That event will not only include the gymnasts who posted qualifying scores from Classics. Shilese Jones, who helped the U.S. team win gold at the World Championships in 2022 while also taking silver in the all-around and uneven bars, will be competing at the U.S. Championships because of her accomplishments at Worlds.
Technically, the Classics the year before the Olympics don’t mean anything when it comes to choosing who will compete for the U.S. in Paris. However, since it’s a qualifier for the U.S. Championships, it’s not an event gymnasts take lightly. It’s a chance for them to get judged on their routines and figure out what needs to be tweaked as they move forward in the Olympic cycle. If the Olympics are the peak of a mountain range, think of the Classics as the foothills.
For gymnasts who have already won Olympic medals, the Classics were about finding their footing again and building confidence heading into the U.S. Championships and team selection camp for Worlds. For other gymnasts, this competition was about establishing themselves as a real threat to make the World Championship team and, eventually, the Olympic team.
Here are three American gymnasts to watch.
When you see Roberson compete, Shawn Johnson’s powerful tumbling and vaults will come to mind. Roberson trains at the same gym as Biles and Chiles, and holds her own with Olympic teammates. She took third in the all-around on Saturday, and tied for second on floor, tied for third on beam and placed second on vault. Earlier this year, Roberson won medals at multiple international events. She’s committed to Arkansas for 2025, so she will continue to train with an eye on the Olympics.
Two Vaults from the Session One Leader at #CoreClassic ⤵️Vault 1 ➡️ 14.650Vault 2 ➡️ 13.600 pic.twitter.com/Z3bRkJaLQg— USA Gymnastics (@USAGym) August 5, 2023
Two Vaults from the Session One Leader at #CoreClassic ⤵️Vault 1 ➡️ 14.650Vault 2 ➡️ 13.600 pic.twitter.com/Z3bRkJaLQg
At just 18, Blakeley has an impressive resume. She was part of the gold-medal winning 2022 World Championships team, and she’s won medals at the Pan-American Championships. On Saturday, she tied for second on bars and third on beam. Though she’s committed to Florida, she is holding off on college to focus on Olympic training.
The LSU-bound gymnast showed she has the talent to compete with the best the U.S. has to offer. On floor exercise and vault, Lincoln can fly while still keeping perfect form in the air. With extra training at LSU and WOGA, her home gym in Texas, Lincoln has the skills to make a run at the Olympic team.
Maggie Hendricks is a contributing writer for Just Women’s Sports. She also covers women’s sports for Bally Sports. Follow her on Twitter @maggiehendricks.