Simone Biles set for historic fifth U.S. Gymnastics title
Simone Biles was a class apart at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Boston on Friday.
The four-time Olympic gold medallist totalled 60.100, more than three points clear of her rivals, to put her on course for a record fifth women's all-around title.
Reigning world champion Morgan Hurd (57.000) and recent U.S. Classic runner-up Riley McCusker (56.050) are her nearest challengers.
But they will be fighting it out for second after a fine display from the undisputed queen of artistic gymnastics.
Biles shines for All-Around Gymnastics gold
Biles shines for All-Around Gymnastics goldSimone Biles of the United States wins individual all-around gold at Rio 2016, with her fellow countrywoman Aly Raisman taking silver.
BILES NOT PERFECT, BUT GOOD ENOUGH
Biles returned to competition at the end of July with victory at the U.S. Classic in Columbus, Ohio.
She appeared more relaxed in Boston, flashing her megawatt smile throughout her opening floor routine.
Despite a deduction of six-tenths for going out of bounds twice, Biles earned 14.450 which was the best of the field.
She was the only athlete to beat 15 points in a routine, scoring a massive 15.600 on the vault.
Her first vault resulted in the big score enabling her to show off the high-difficulty Amanar - containing two and a half twists - on the second.
She will need the Amanar when she heads to the World Championships in Doha in October.
Biles also led the field in the uneven bars with 14.850 having disappointed on that apparatus in Columbus last month.
"I wanted to hit bars so bad, and then, I was first and I had to calm myself down. I was like, 'Don’t freak out. It's OK'. And then I hit bars and I was just so excited." - Simone Biles
Going into the final rotation, Biles needed 15.100 on the balance beam to become the first woman to break 60 points since the International Gymnastics Federation changed the scoring rules in 2017.
She scored 15.200, her second 15-plus score, for a total of 60.100.
That tally was 1.400 higher than at the U.S. Classic, and the 21-year-old superstar was delighted with her day's work.
She said, "I feel like I enjoyed Championships a lot more than Classics because I felt at Classics I was still easing back into everything and kind of feeling the surroundings and getting used to competing again. And today, I feel like I really embraced it."
SMITH SHOCK, HURD HAPPY
Defending champion Ragan Smith struggled with errors on the uneven bars, balance beam and floor to leave her down in a share of ninth place.
But it was a good day for Hurd who finished behind McCusker at the Classic.
The 17-year-old, who unusually wears glasses while competing, finished in the top-four in three events on Friday to leave her in second.
Hurd said, "I'm just most proud of how calm I was throughout the entire meet. I felt really solid and I'm really happy about that."
The Chinese-born gymnast took a surprise victory in the all-around at last year's World Championships after finishing sixth in the Nationals.
And that success has raised her expectations.
"I think it’s more of a different standard that I carry myself with. I have higher standards for myself than I did last year." - 2017 all-around world champion Morgan Hurd
Mistakes on the floor and a nervous uneven bars routine saw McCusker end the day almost a point down on Hurd.
But she is hopeful of closing that gap and perhaps even overtaking her former junior rival.
"I came in here a little more nervous, honestly. I was a little tight," McCusker said of her performance.
"I feel good now. I'm warmed up and ready for day two."
Meanwhile, only something extraordinary can stop Biles clinching a fifth women's all-around title on Sunday.
She is currently tied on four with Joan Moore Gnat whose last victory came in 1974.