BOSTON — Simone Biles leads the field by a whopping 3.1 points halfway through the U.S. Gymnastics Championships. She beat the number at the bottom of the note card in her locker at the World Champions Centre in Texas by a much smaller margin.
No matter the perspective, Biles was more dominant on Friday night than during most of the Rio Olympic cycle. In just her second meet in two years. Nine months after returning to training after a 14-month break.
Biles tallied the highest score on every apparatus in the field and the world’s highest all-around score since Rio — 60.1 points. The second-highest score since Rio? Biles’ 58.7 from her comeback meet at the U.S. Classic three weeks ago.
“At Classics, I was still easing back into everything and kind of feeling the surroundings and getting used to competing again,” Biles, 21, said on the fifth anniversary of her first U.S. all-around title. “I feel like today I really embraced it.”
In the last Olympic cycle, Biles averaged a 1.94-point lead after the first day of nationals.
She rolls into the final day of competition Sunday, looking to become the first woman to win five U.S. all-around titles and the first non-teen to win since 1971. And send another message ahead of October’s world championships.
Morgan Hurd, who won the 2017 World all-around title in Biles’ absence, is in a distant second after four clean routines. The margin between Biles and Hurd is greater than the margin between Hurd and the eighth-place gymnast.
Asked to put her 60-pointer in perspective, Biles brought up the note card.
“I think it says 60 at the bottom,” said Biles, who hit 62.366 in Rio under a different scoring system.
Biles hit 60 points in a practice meet at her gym right before she left for the U.S. Classic. Her new coaches, Cecile and Laurent Landi, encouraged Biles to keep the visual reminder placed in her locker leading up to nationals.
“I wanted to show her that she could reach that score,” Laurent Landi said. “It’s not a big deal. If she does normal, she can be there.”
But nobody else can. Biles had 25.4 total points in difficulty on Friday. The next-highest gymnast (Hurd) had 22.7.
Biles essentially began the meet with a 2.7-point head start. She then was judged to have better overall execution than everybody else, even though she had the disadvantage of performing harder routines.
“She’s just mentally there,” said Riley McCusker, who led Biles going into the last rotation at the U.S. Classic and is in third place here. “She can take that time off and [be] physically there, too.”
Biles’ flaw in her comeback meet three weeks ago was the uneven bars. She fell trying a more difficult routine than in Rio.
On Friday, Biles nailed her bars set, receiving applause from Laurent Landi, who coached Madison Kocian to a bars silver in Rio.
Biles has never won a national title on bars. At the Olympics, she had the highest scores in the all-around on beam, floor and vault and the seventh-highest score on bars.
“She needs to go through more mental belief that she [belongs] at this level on the bars,” said Laurent Landi, a 40-year-old former French gymnast.
Landi insisted Biles was not at her best Friday. He noted her two overcooked tumbling passes on floor that cost her six tenths for going out of bounds. Imperfect landings on other events. He dismissed Biles’ lead and said he already has plans for upgraded routines before worlds, next year and possibly in the Olympic year.
“Sometimes when it’s difficult in the gym, we, my wife and I, try just to remind her who she’s trying to beat,” he said. “It’s herself.”
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