Simone Biles handles nerves, mom handles excitement of comeback

AP
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Sounds like Simone Biles‘ mom is more excited about her comeback than the Olympic all-around champion.

“She told me last night at dinner, I can’t wait for the competition, I’m so excited,” Biles said Friday, in a fuss, imitating her mom, Nellie. “I’m like, oh God, I feel like I’m going to pass out or something.”

Biles competes on Saturday for the first time since earning four golds at the Rio Games.

She headlines the U.S. Classic, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers at 8 p.m. ET. NBC airs coverage Sunday at 2 p.m.

Biles is not setting expectations, but at the same time she has repeated in interviews this spring and summer that she feels like a better gymnast than in Rio despite taking more than a year off of training.

“I’d probably beat [2016 Biles],” she told media in Columbus, Ohio, at training. “I feel like I have a stronger mindset, and I’m not as nervous. For this particular competition, I still have a lot of nerves that I have to get out.”

Biles’ new coach, Laurent Landi, said her overall difficulty is higher than it was in Rio.

“Now I feel like some of the skills I’m doing I couldn’t do before,” Biles said, noting she feels leaner now than the strong “bulldog” who dominated in Brazil. “I’m really excited to showcase [uneven] bars.”

Biles used to despise bars, the only apparatus where she did not earn a medal in Rio (or any world championships). In the last Olympic cycle, Biles joked about wanting to take a chainsaw to the bars.

She returns to a completely different U.S. gymnastics landscape.

“I don’t have to be so nervous about walking on egg shells and what we do because we already achieved what we did in Rio,” she said. “We’re already Olympians at this point, whereas before you were kind of nervous. Everything you did could mess up what you wanted to do.

“Now it’s a lot better because I’m coming back and doing what I want to do and not doing it for anyone else.”

But it’s hard to forget about mom, who it seems like has been anticipating Saturday’s return since the Olympic Closing Ceremony.

“I didn’t really write down anything because I didn’t want my mom to pressure me, but I remember my mom last year during the summer, we were in Hawaii or something, and she’s like, when are you going to compete again, I miss going to competitions,” Biles said. “I’m like, whoa, slow the brakes.

The time for pause is over. Biles’ next two meets are the U.S. Championships in three weeks and the world championships in October. Saturday is just the beginning.

“Just go out there and lay it all on the table,” she said.

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