Simone Biles is back. The star gymnast plans to return to competition at the American Classic near Chicago in early August. This will be his first competition since the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
USA Gymnastics announced Wednesday that Biles, a seven-time Olympic medalist and 2016 Olympic champion, is part of the women’s field for the one-day event scheduled for August 5 at NOW Arena, Hoffman Estates.
Biles has stayed away from the competition for the majority of the past two years, after a turbulent time in Japan. There, she made the decision to retire from several disciplines to focus on her mental health, which shifted the focus from the Games to the overall well-being of the athletes.
Biles cheered on her fellow Americans, who won the silver medal in the team competition. She then withdrew from the all-around, vault and floor exercise finals, which she was already qualified for even though she had faced what are known as “twisties” – a gymnastics term that represents athletes’ loss of spatial awareness when in flight.
Biles returned for the balance beam final, in which she won the bronze medal to tie Shannon Miller’s record for the most Olympic medals won by an American gymnast. Biles hinted at the Paris Games in 2024, but only after taking a long break.
The last two years have been kind of a whirlwind. Biles headlined his post-Olympic tour in the fall of 2021 and married NFL player Jonathan Owens — now a defensive back for the Green Bay Packers since this spring.
The 26-year-old Biles has also become an outspoken spokesperson for athletes to find space to protect their mental health, after her views in Japan brought the issue to the fore. While the conversation around the subject is constantly evolving, Biles’ return to the sport she dominated for nearly a decade suggests an athlete who wants to come back on her own terms.
The American Classic is one of the signature events on USA Gymnastics’ annual calendar and usually serves as a warm-up for the National Championships, scheduled this year in San Jose at the end of August.
Biles used the Classic as a venue to return to competition in 2018, after a two-year hiatus following his record medal haul at the Rio de Janeiro Games. It took her just two hours to show that she was still the benchmark in her sport, setting the stage for another spectacular run that included two more world all-around titles, in 2018 and 2019, and three more national titles.
Things could be different this time around, in more than one way.
Biles courted the spotlight on his journey to Tokyo, in many ways becoming the face of the American Olympic movement. She seems to be taking a more moderate approach with the Paris Games scheduled in about a year. She’s kept her various social media accounts almost entirely gymnastically free, instead using them to highlight snippets of her personal life.
And for the first time since rising to fame as a teenager in 2013, Biles won’t have to shoulder the burden of being the standard bearer of the American program.
Sunisa Lee, who won gold in the all-around final in Tokyo, will also be at the American Classic, having spent the past two years competing at Auburn University. She helped spark a massive increase in interest in college gymnastics.