With just over a year to go to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Simone Biles faces her latest big test as she competes in the U.S. Classic in Louisville, Kentucky on Saturday (20th July)
Biles made her competitive comeback at the Classic 12-months ago.
The American had spent nearly two years out, following her historic run through the Rio 2016 Olympics, that netted four gold and one bronze medal.
That return made it seem as if Biles had never left, as she claimed the titles in the all-around, vault, balance beam, and floor exercise.
“I’m happy with how today went and played out,” Biles said at the time. A modest assessment that announced her impressive return to the sport.
Weeks later she added a fifth U.S. title and concluded her season at the World Championships where – despite a kidney stone 24 hours before competition began – she won her fourth World all-around title.
Now she's back where this cycle began, and fans are hoping for something special.
History awaits for Biles
Every time Biles steps on the floor (or balance beam or vault or bars) between now and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, history will almost certainly result.
Next month at the U.S. Championships in Kansas City, Missouri, she will go for her sixth U.S. title – a feat only one other woman, Clara M. Schroth Lomady, accomplished more than half a century ago.
Then at October’s World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, she will be an integral part of the U.S. team that is seeking its fifth-straight World team title (they won in 2011, 2014, 2015, 2018). That record would match Romania’s string of five from 1994-2001.
She already owns the most World all-around titles by a woman and a fifth title in Stuttgart would be second all-time only to Japan’s Kohei Uchimura.
Overall, Biles is tied with Russia’s Svetlana Khorkina for most women’s World Championships medals at 20 (though Biles has 14 golds to Khorkina’s nine). One medal, of course, gives her that honour outright while she needs just three medals in Stuttgart to tie Vitaly Scherbo’s overall record of 23.
Adding to her arsenal
When Biles ran through qualifying at the World Championships in Doha, topping the standings by four and a half points, she did so in part because of her massive advantage in difficulty score.
Her total D-score across the four events was 25.7 while teammate Morgan Hurd, who finished second in qualifying, had a 22.6 total and third place’s Mai Murakami of Japan earned a total difficult score of 22.1.
When she hits the floor Saturday in Louisville, Biles has the potential to increase that by .600 if she competes the two upgraded tumbling passes she showed in late May.
That’s when Biles took to social media to show the world what she’d been working on in the off season: two tumbling passes never before done in competition by a woman. The first: her signature move, the Biles (a double layout with a half twist in the second somersault) directly into a front layout. The second pass was a triple twisting, double back flip.
The new tumbling means the four-time World floor champion could raise her difficulty score to as high as 7.3. En route to the World title last year in Doha, Biles was credited with a 6.7 difficulty score, already a full point higher than any other woman in the floor final.
Talent ‘All Around’
A bevy of talented gymnasts join Biles in Louisville, including 2017 World all-around champion and one of the stars of the recently announced Olympic Channel original series ‘All Around’ Morgan Hurd.
Hurd, in addition to her 2017 global win, is the reigning all-around bronze medalist at the Worlds. With five medals at the Worlds, she is the seventh most decorated American gymnast and just the eighth U.S. woman to win the all-around World title. She is one of eight gymnasts taking part at the Classic vying for berths to the Pan American Games next week in Lima, Peru.
Among the others hoping to participate in Lima are reigning U.S. junior all-around champion Leanne Wong, who had an impressive senior international debut in March when she won the American Cup, and 2018 World team gold medalists Kara Eaker and Riley McCusker.
The U.S. Classic will also be the first elite competitive appearance for MyKayla Skinner since she was named as an alternate to the 2016 Olympics. Skinner was a member of the 2014 U.S. Worlds team that won gold and an alternate to the 2015 U.S. World Championships team.