Simone Biles’ comeback: from a talk over margaritas to the Yurchenko double pike
Around March, Simone Biles had dinner with coach Cecile Landi at a Mexican restaurant. That’s when Biles first told Landi that she wanted to return to gymnastics training.
“She told me she really wanted to give herself a chance to do it,” Landi said. “We had margaritas, and that was it.”
Those months working her way back at the World Champions Centre gym in Spring, Texas, have led to Saturday.
Biles headlines the Core Hydration Classic, her first meet in two years, live on CNBC, NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app and Peacock at 8 p.m. ET.
After the Tokyo Olympics, Biles neither announced a retirement nor said she would definitely return for a 2024 Olympic bid.
Her comeback was signaled on June 28, when her name appeared on the entry list for this meet, which for most gymnasts is a stepping stone to the U.S. Championships in three weeks.
On Friday, Biles prepped for competition publicly for the first time since Tokyo at a training session at the arena in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
“She looked amazing,” said Suni Lee, who succeeded Biles as Olympic all-around champion in Tokyo. “It doesn’t even look like she took a year off or any time off.”
Landi said Biles is capable of “everything that she was doing before” in terms of gymnastics skills.
Such as the Yurchenko double pike vault. At the 2021 Classic, Biles became the first woman to land it in competition (few men have even tried it).
She performed it in training on Friday on a hard landing for the first time since Tokyo, said Cecile’s husband, Laurent, who also coaches Biles.
“It’s been good,” Laurent Landi said.
Cecile Landi said that Biles isn’t currently including two of her signature skills — the triple-double on floor exercise and the double-double balance beam dismount — because the scoring system — tweaked after every Olympics — doesn’t make it worth it, especially with stricter judging on landings.
“We just made the routines to use the new Code of Points and make it as mentally and physically comfortable as she could handle,” Cecile Landi said. “Might as well try to stick something a little bit easier than trying the hard tricks.”
Biles posted on Sunday that she was at first “petrified” when she returned to the gym after more than a year off, but that she’s fine now.
“We wouldn’t be here if we had seen any hesitations,” Cecile Landi said. “She really wants it for herself.”