Simone Biles’ comeback begins where it all started; how to watch
Simone Biles’ first meet since the Rio Olympics is Saturday’s U.S. Classic in Columbus, Ohio, an event and a location tied to the gymnast’s beginnings.
Biles competes in the all-around in the tune-up meet for August’s U.S. Championships, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. NBC airs coverage Sunday at 2 p.m.
Biles was born in Columbus and lived there until age 3 before moving in with grandparents Ron and Nellie in Texas. Biles’ mother was battling drug addiction and unable to care for her and sister Adria.
The children briefly returned to foster care in Ohio before being officially adopted by Ron and Nellie at age 6 and moving to Texas for good.
Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the last time Biles started an all-around competition and did not win -- at the 2013 U.S. Classic.
Biles, then 16, poorly prepared and flashing braces, fell on uneven bars and floor exercise and barely stayed on the balance beam before being pulled from vault by then-coach Aimee Boorman.
Biles began regularly seeing a sports psychologist and won her first U.S. and world all-around titles the next two months. That started an undefeated streak that ran through Rio, where she earned four gold medals in the most successful Games ever for a U.S. female gymnast.
Though Biles has been out of competition for nearly two years, she is planning to perform her most difficult floor and bars routines yet on Saturday, said one of her coaches, Laurent Landi.
Biles said in April, just five months into her return to training, that she already felt like a better overall gymnast than in Rio. Landi padded that in a Wednesday interview, saying that Biles’ overall difficulty is greater than it was in 2016. What we’ll see on Saturday is whether the execution in competition is near the same standard.
“She’s nervous because it’s been two years,” Landi said. “She’s excited because she’s ready to go and do the job.
“She followed the right preparation. She’s in shape. She’s mentally and physically prepared. I just want to see how she reacts.”
Biles originally planned to compete on two events at the U.S. Classic but announced earlier this month that she was all-in for the all-around, a sign that her confidence is soaring.
“She’s ready to do it [the all-around], and she needs more reps,” Landi said. “She’s going to only have this U.S. Classic and the [U.S.] Championships [in August], so pretty much two meets before world champs [in October], so I want her to get experience and know how it feels under pressure to do these routines.”
Biles will compete against reigning world all-around champion Morgan Hurd and national champion Ragan Smith, though some gymnasts opt not to do all four events at this meet.
Biles returned to training Nov. 1 under Landi and his wife, Cecile, at her parents’ gym in Texas. Boorman, who had coached Biles since age 7, moved from Texas to become executive director at a Florida gym shortly after the Rio Games. Biles and Boorman remain close.
A strong return on Saturday will set Biles up well for the U.S. Championships in four weeks in Boston. She can win a record-breaking fifth U.S. women’s all-around title.
The world championships are in Doha in October, when Biles could become the first woman to win four world all-around titles.
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