The most decorated gymnast of all time is getting back on the floor.
Simone Biles will compete on Saturday for the first time in two years, since dramatically bowing out of the all-around competition at the Tokyo Olympics due to a spatial affliction known as “the twisties.”
The U.S. Classic, taking place in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates, is the last chance for athletes to qualify for the national championships in San Jose later this month.
Biles, now 26, took part in a U.S. national team camp last month and reportedly took the top scores in every event but the uneven bars — traditionally her “weakest” apparatus – in which she took third. The superstar has been busy with other things since the Olympics, including getting married this spring to NFL safety Jonathan Owens.
Biles hasn’t said much about her return, other than a few Instagram posts and a tweet last month: “sorry I’ve been a little MIA since the announcement. I’m overwhelmed with all of your messages, support & love! excited to get back out on the competition floor! XOXO.”
Until it was announced in June that Biles would be competing, her future in the sport had been unclear. When she withdrew at the Olympics, she cited immense pressure and mental health concerns.
Not long after the news that Biles would be competing at the U.S. Classic, the meet was renamed the Core Hydration Classic due to a new sponsorship with the water company.
Sunisa “Suni” Lee, who won all-around gold in Tokyo after Biles dropped out, will be making her own comeback this weekend. She followed her Olympic success by competing in NCAA gymnastics at Auburn University the last two years, before cutting her sophomore season short in April due to a kidney issue.
In addition to Biles and Lee, Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles will compete – both were medalists in Tokyo. Kayla DiCello and Skye Blakely, who both medaled at recent World Championships, will also be looking to make their mark and start down the road to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Biles’ return is great news for USA Gymnastics, which announced a new deal with Nike on Thursday – the largest partnership ever for the organization and the first time Nike will be its official apparel and footwear sponsor. The deal marks the end of a several-year period where brands shied away from the sport’s governing body, whose reputation was severely damaged by former team doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse of gymnasts and the lawsuits that followed.
“I can’t say enough in terms of what [the Nike] announcement means in terms of how far we’ve come as an organization,” USA Gymnastics’ chief executive Li Li Leung told The Wall Street Journal.
Biles and the other Olympic and World medalists will compete Saturday evening from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET, broadcast live on CNBC and streamed on Peacock. NBC will air highlights from the competition on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET. For those outside the U.S., there will be a livestream on YouTube from USA Gymnastics.