Simone Biles wasn’t perfect. But she didn’t have to be as she picked up where she left off nearly two years ago: at the top of the podium.
The four-time Olympic champion won the U.S Classic in Ohio on Saturday, finishing with an all-around score of 58.700.
That was more than a point ahead of second placed Riley McCusker, with reigning world champion Morgan Hurd finishing third.
Struggle with nerves
In an exclusive interview with the Olympic Channel earlier this week, Biles said nerves could be a factor in her return, and she struggled to control them early on as she went out of bounds on her opening element on the floor exercise.“I didn’t expect to be so nervous,” Biles said afterwards.
“I think the nerves got the best of me. It’s kind of hard to hold back, so I flew out of bounds.”
In the final rotation, Biles shook off mistakes on the uneven bars to close her competition with the highest score of the night on the balance beam, a 15.200, rocketing her to the top of the standings.“After bars, I was like, ‘I’m done. I’m not competing beam,’” said Biles. “But I was like, ‘You know what Simone, you’re here for a reason. Go out there and still do four events. Just try to have fun with it and find the joy you used to have.’ But I was really upset with bars.”
While Biles stole the show, Riley McCusker, who has battled injuries since last year’s U.S. championships, impressed for second with a 57.500 total score.
“After last year’s nationals, I took a year off to just recover, rest my body and let everything heal,” McCusker said after the competition.
Adding, “I think it was absolutely the right decision.”
World champion Morgan Hurd finished third with a score of 56.350.
Reigning U.S. champion Ragan Smith only competed on three events, highlighted by a third-place finish on the balance beam.
The U.S. Classic was the final opportunity for women to qualify to next month’s U.S. Championships in Boston, but, unsurprisingly, the majority of the attention focused on Biles’ return.
“I’m happy with how today went and played out,” Biles said plainly to sum up her first post-Rio outing.
And she should be. With Biles back in action, the rest of the field is wondering what it will take to catch the woman trying to become the first to win back-to-back Olympic all-around titles since 1968.
“Man, I don’t really know,” Hurd said with a laugh.
“I guess perfect landings and amazing execution, which is what I’m really striving for.”