Simone Biles wins gymnastics US Classic by a lot. Shilese Jones takes 2nd. How it happened (2024)

Nancy ArmourUSA TODAY

Simone Biles wins gymnastics US Classic by a lot. Shilese Jones takes 2nd. How it happened (1)

Simone Biles wins gymnastics US Classic by a lot. Shilese Jones takes 2nd. How it happened (2)

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HARTFORD, Conn. — There is Simone Biles and then there is everyone else.

Biles easily won the U.S. Classic on Saturday night, and did so while leaving herself room to improve. Her score of 59.5 points was 1.85 points ahead of Shilese Jones, an all-around medalist at the world championships the last two years.

Biles didn’t score lower than a 14.55, and posted the highest score on vault and floor exercise. She was second to Jones on uneven bars and to reigning Olympic all-around champion Suni Lee on balance beam. Tokyo Olympians Jordan Chiles and Jade Carey were third and fourth and Skye Blakely, a member of the last two world teams, was fifth.

The scary part? This was Biles’ first meet of the year. She’s only going to get better from here.

London Olympics champion Gabby Douglas joined Lee and Biles on Saturday, marking the first time ever three Olympic all-around champions competed together. Douglas completed one event before withdrawing. Lee completed three events for a 40.75 total score that qualified her for the all-around competition at nationals.

The U.S. Classic doesn’t directly affect who makes the U.S. team for the Paris Olympics. But it plays a role because it’s a qualifier for the national championships later this month in Fort Worth, Texas. Results at nationals determine who gets invited to the Olympic trials, June 27-30 in Minneapolis.

What Simone Biles said after U.S. Classic win

After a comfortable victory at the U.S. Classic, Simone Biles said on NBC that she has no complaints about how her first meet of 2024 unfolded.

"For me, I was happy to just be back out there, get through those nerves again, feel that adrenaline," she said.

Biles was asked about her performance on uneven bars and acknowledged "there's things to go home and fix, but I'm not mad about it." She was also asked about having her husband, Chicago Bears safety Jonathan Owens, in the crowd cheering for her. What does he think of gymnastics meets?

"I think this one was a huge thing for him because he hasn't been in a while," Biles told NBC. "But to hear those girls scream as loud as the fans in the football field I think is something new, so it's really exciting to be in both atmospheres."

Biles' power on display

Biles had so much power on her first tumbling pass on floor exercise, a triple twisting double somersault – also known as the Biles II on floor – that she bounced way out of bounds, laughing as she did so. It cost her 0.3 points, but she’ll get that under control in the coming weeks.

Biles is also likely to clean up the landing of her Yurchenko double pike vault. She’s no longer having coach Laurent Landi stand on the podium as a safety precaution, which cost her a half-point last year.

Biles’ closest competition, Rebeca Andrade of Brazil and Jones, already needed to be perfect and have Biles make a couple of mistakes in order to have a chance against her. With this performance, the gap between Biles and everyone else grows even wider.

Watch a replay of the 2024 U.S. Classic

Biles' session of competition was televised live on CNBC and Peaco*ck, which is NBC's streaming service. NBC will also run a show recapping all the highlights from the U.S. Classic at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Yurchenko double pike (aka the Biles II) sighting

Simone Biles isn’t leaving room for anyone else.

Biles did the Yurchenko double pike – the Biles II on vault, for those keeping track – which would give her a big score, anyway. But unlike last year, when she took a half-point deduction for having coach Laurent Landi stand on the landing mat in case she was in danger of crashing, Landi was off to the side.

Without the deduction, Biles scored a whopping 15.6 – and that was after having to run backward several steps to control her landing. It was one of only two scores in the meet above 15 – Shilese Jones had a 15.25 on uneven bars – and gave Biles a 1.3-point lead going into the final rotation.

2022 US champion Konnor McClain leaves US Classic in wheelchair

After a solid start to the night on beam, Konnor McClain suffered an injury while warming up on floor and was forced to withdraw from the U.S. Classic.

NBC television cameras showed McClain, 19, being taken out of the arena in a wheelchair with tears in her eyes. She had been sitting in third place after notching a score of 14.200 on balance beam in her first rotation.

NBC's John Roethlisberger reported on air that McClain's coach, Courtney McCool Griffeth, told him "it's an Achilles," without providing additional information about the severity of the injury.

Biles is back

Biles brought back her triple twisting double somersault – aka the Biles II – in her floor routine. It’s one of the elements she dropped after the Tokyo Olympics, when a case of “the twisties” caused her to lose sense of where she was in the air and jeopardized her physical safety.

Biles won her eighth U.S. and sixth world titles last year, both records, but she did so with some of her most difficult twisting elements removed from her routines. No more. The triple-double is her first pass on floor and it was massive, so big she bounced way out of bounds. She grinned when she landed and completed the rest of her routine with power and polish.

Her score of 14.8 gave her 29.35 midway through the meet. That’s .25 points behind Shilese Jones, an all-around medalist at the last two world championships. But Jones has done her two highest-scoring events while Biles still has vault.

Gabby Douglas scratches after one event

Gabby Douglas' performance at the U.S. Classic was a short one.

Douglas scratched after the first event Saturday night. No reason was given, but she'd come off the uneven bars twice.

The 2012 Olympic champion, who is hoping to make the Paris team eight years after she last competed, was trying to qualify for the all-around at the national championships in two weeks. She is already qualified to do three events — vault, balance beam and bars — but needed to score a 51 or higher in order to do all four at nationals. With a 10.1 on bars, that was going to be a tough task.

Read more: Gabby Douglas out of US Classic after one event. What happened and where she stands for nationals

Simone Biles starts Olympic season off strong

Biles scored a 14.55 on balance beam, her first event at the U.S. Classic. There are still three events to go, but she has a .20 lead on Shilese Jones with vault and floor exercise, her two highest-scoring events, still to come.

This isn’t a surprise, of course. Biles is the best to ever do it, returning to competition for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics last year and winning her eighth national title and sixth world title, both records. So long as she’s on her game, no one will beat her.

But, honestly, everyone in the United States knows that. The other women are just hoping to make a claim on the remaining four spots on the team.

Tough start for Gabby Douglas

That was a tough start for Gabby Douglas, who is trying to make the Paris Olympics eight years after she last competed. Starting on uneven bars, her signature event, Douglas got off balance on a pirouette. She managed to save it, but couldn’t get back into her rhythm and came off. She got back up but dropped off a couple of seconds later. With fans – many of whom weren’t even alive when she won gold at the London Games in 2012 – chanting her name, Douglas got back up and finished her routine.

Douglas got a 10.1, which is going to hurt her chances of qualifying to do the all-around at the national championships in two weeks. She’s already qualified to do three events at nationals, but needs a 51 or higher here to qualify for the all-around. (She could also petition to do all four events.)

A historic competition with 3 Olympic all-around champs

This is the first time ever three Olympic all-around champions ― Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles and Suni Lee ― have competed together. But to put that in better perspective, when Douglas made the Rio team, she became the first reigning all-around champion since Nadia Comaneci in 1980 to compete at the next Olympics. Biles obviously did the same in Tokyo.

Biles, Douglas, Carey start on signature events

There will be fireworks early. Gabby Douglas starts on uneven bars, her signature event, while Simone Biles is up on balance beam, where she's the reigning world champion. Oh, and Jade Carey starts on floor exercise, where she won gold at the Tokyo Olympics. Settle in and grab the popcorn. This is going to be fun.

Fans get rowdy for Biles before event starts

There's still an hour until the meet starts and the XL Center isn't even close to being half-full. But fans are already LOUD. When Simone Biles did her Yurchenko double pike vault ― also known as the Biles II ― the cheers were deafening.

What to expect from Biles, Lee and Douglas

Biles has already qualified for nationals as a member of the U.S. squad that won a seventh consecutive title at last year’s world championships. But she’s using this meet to test out her routines. She’s brought back her triple twisting, double somersault on floor exercise, also known as the Biles II, as well as the double-double dismount on uneven bars.

She’s also got new choreography on floor, from French choreographer Gregory Milan.

Lee was originally planning to do the all-around, which would have been her first since she had to cut short her final season at Auburn because of a kidney ailment, more than a year ago. She did bars and balance beam at Winter Cup in February, and vault and beam at the American Classic last month. But Lee is opting not to do bars here, and instead do vault, beam and floor.

Douglas qualified to do three events at nationals with her performance at the American Classic, but is hoping to improve on that so she can compete in the all-around.

Who is competing at the U.S. Classic?

Gymnasts like to have a meet to work out the nerves and have their routines judged before things start counting, so pretty much everyone is here. Biles and Shilese Jones, an all-around medalist at the last two world championships, are making their season debuts, as is Tokyo floor gold medalist Jade Carey and 2022 U.S. champion Konnor McClain, whose LSU team won the NCAA title last month.

How do you make the U.S. Olympic team?

The top all-arounder at the Olympic trials, likely to be Biles, is guaranteed a spot in Paris. The remaining four gymnasts, along with two alternates, are chosen by a selection committee based on their performances this year, scoring potential and how they'd contribute in both qualifying and team finals.

Unlike other sports, such as swimming and track and field, gymnastics teams can't be chosen purely on results or rank order. In qualifying at the Olympics, teams compete four athletes on each event and can drop the lowest score. But in the team finals, only three athletes compete on each event and all three scores are counted. That means teams must be constructed to produce the highest scoring potential and consistency on all four events.

What's next?

The U.S. championships are less than two weeks away, May 30 to June 2 in Forth Worth, Texas. The Olympic trials are June 27-30 in Minneapolis. The Paris Olympics begin July 26, with the women's competition beginning two days later with qualifying.

Simone Biles wins gymnastics US Classic by a lot. Shilese Jones takes 2nd. How it happened (2024)

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