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Simone Biles shines in return at the US Classic

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“I was just happy to be back out there, to get over those nerves again, to feel that adrenaline.”

Simone Biles attends the Core Hydration Classic 2024 at the XL Center. Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Simone Biles certainly looks ready for Paris with more than two months until the start of the Olympics.

The gymnastics superstar began her bid for a third Olympic team on Saturday by looking more dominant than ever at the US Classic, posting an overall score of 59.500, nearly two points ahead of runner-up Shilese Jones.

Biles, 27, the 2016 Olympic champion, recorded the highest score on vault and floor exercise and came second on the uneven bars and balance beam in her 2024 debut.

“I was just happy to be back out there, to get over those nerves again, to feel that adrenaline,” Biles said. “I can’t really complain about how the first meeting went.”

She used a handful of her signature skills, including hitting Yurchenko’s double pike on vault and a tumbling pass that ends with a double flip to triple twist.

Biles completed the vault — which requires her to clasp her hands to her knees as she flips backwards twice — as coach Laurent Landi watched from the sidelines. Landi had stood on the podium to spot Biles in previous attempts, a decision that cost her a neutral half-point deduction.

While Biles wasn’t perfect — she took a few steps back on her descent from the vault and caught so much air on the triple-double that she landed out of bounds — her mix of difficulty and precision remains the norm in the sport.

Biles is a virtual lock to make the five-woman U.S. Olympic team if she stays healthy. The big question to answer over the next six weeks is who will join her in France.

Jones was brilliant on bars and steady everywhere else and should head confidently into the U.S. Championships later this month and the Olympic Trials in late June.

Afterwards, things get complicated.

Gabby Douglas, the 2012 Olympic champion, hoped to use the American Classic as a springboard. Instead, she will leave with questions about the road ahead.

The 28-year-old, making his return after a long break following the 2016 Olympics, fell twice on the uneven bars and withdrew from the remaining four events.

Sunisa Lee, who won the Olympic title at the 2020 Tokyo Games, has suffered from kidney problems for 18 months that make training difficult. She competed in three events and her elegant beam routine earned her a 14.600, a touch ahead of the 14.550 achieved by Biles.

Jordan Chiles, a 2020 Olympic silver medalist, finished third in the all-around with 55.450. Jade Carey, who won gold on floor in Tokyo, finished fourth.

Konnor McClain, the 2022 U.S. champion, left the competition due to an Achilles tendon injury suffered while warming up during a floor exercise.

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