Simone Biles makes gymnastics return at U.S. Classic, knowing she has more to give

Simone Biles
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At the end of Simone Biles‘ most recent gymnastics meet, she lifted five gold medals from around her neck in an image shared around the globe.

That was at the October 2019 World Championships in Stuttgart. Biles performed at the peak of her powers, but it was believed to foreshadow a farewell tour. Curtains were to fall in August 2020 in Tokyo.

“Everybody has to end it some time,” she said that autumn evening in Germany, after upping her career world champs medal counts to records of 25 total and 19 golds. “You can’t keep going for the rest of your life.”

On Saturday, Biles competes for the first time in 587 days at the U.S. Classic in Indianapolis (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN, and the NBC Sports app). It’s a tune-up for the U.S. Championships and Olympic Trials, both in June.

She is the last American (global?) sports megastar to return to the field of play during the pandemic. Biles is all but assured a place on the U.S. team for Tokyo before she salutes a single judge, so these meets are about ramping up for the rescheduled Tokyo Games that open July 23.

“It’s more stressful whenever I go out and compete,” Biles told NBC in February. “It’s just scary. Because I go out, and I’m like, can I do it again? Can I be this good? And can I repeat what I did last year, last time, last Olympics?”

Biles never felt so prepared for a season of spring and summer meets as on that March 2020 morning. She entered her family’s gym, the World Champions Centre in Spring, Texas.

Biles checked her phone as she gathered grips to mount the uneven bars. She saw a text from her older brother: the Olympics are postponed. Biles teared up. Could she put off retirement for an extra year?

Training partner Jordan Chiles was there.

“I just don’t know if I can do this,” Biles told her.

Biles wasn’t always certain to come back after winning four Olympic titles in Rio. She voiced doubts again last spring.

“She was saying she was done,” said Biles’ mom, Nellie. “She could not see herself hang on for another year.”

Biles was out of the gym for seven weeks due to pandemic measures. She chose to return.

“What motivates me is to strive to be better than I was before,” she said.

ON HER TURF: Silence is compliance: Morgan Hurd’s call to action

Biles turned 23 the week before the Olympic postponement. While not the oldest U.S. elite gymnast, she is older than every previous female U.S. Olympic gymnast since 2004. She would be the oldest American woman to compete in an Olympic all-around final since Kathy Johnson in 1984, according to

Women’s gymnastics was a teen-dominated sport from the 1970s until the last few years. Biles is the only non-teen to win a U.S. all-around title since 1971.

Others recently excelled in their 20s and beyond, from Aly Raisman to 45-year-old Oksana Chusovitina (going to her eighth Olympics this summer) to the current women of Japan, the first nation without a teen on its Olympic team event roster since 1964.

Biles returned to the gym last May, and the aches, pains and soreness were there. Her recovery is slower than in past years. Daily naps — two hours is the rarely achieved goal — are essential.

Last winter, another gymnast asked how long she’s been in the sport. Seventeen years, Biles answered.

“I’m not even 17 yet!” the gymnast replied.

Biles compared one year on a gymnast’s body to five years on somebody else in wear and tear. The nation’s best compete at a handful of meets every year, but training is daily. It’s 34 hours per week for Biles.

“But I feel stronger this year than last year, physically, mentally,” Biles, who since Rio cracked a rib, broke at least one toe and won world titles with a kidney stone, said in February.

That sentiment manifests in a vault that no woman has performed — a Yurchenko double pike. Biles plans to do it in competition before the Olympics. It could be the fifth “Biles” skill named after her in the sport’s Code of Points among floor exercise, balance beam and vault.

Video of that vault is here.

As Biles’ father, Ron, said, “She does some crazy stuff.”

ON HER TURF: Jordan Chiles rekindled her love of gymnastics by moving 1,800 miles

When she retires, which could be this summer or in 2024, Biles wants to be remembered not just for taking gymnastics to new heights.

“Also for making a change for the newer generations to come, so that they feel comfortable entering the sport,” she said.

Biles came forward as an abuse survivor in January 2018, during a near-two-year break from competition. Since, she used her platform to hold people and organizations in power accountable, most notably USA Gymnastics.

“Gymnastics wasn’t the only thing I was supposed to come back for,” she said. “I had to come back to the sport to be a voice.”

Biles has four meets from now through August after not competing at all for 19 months. At the end of the final one, in Tokyo, she may well be photographed lifting five gold medals once again.

“I’m just doing what I love and sharing that with the world,” she said.

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2023 French Open women’s singles draw, scores

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At the French Open, Iga Swiatek of Poland eyes a third title at Roland Garros and a fourth Grand Slam singles crown overall.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed from Poland, can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

Having turned 22 on Wednesday, she can become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Men’s Draw

But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 4 seed and Wimbledon champion, are the top challengers in Paris.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula, the highest-seeded American man or woman, was eliminated in the third round.

No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, is the best hope to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Women’s Singles Draw

French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw French Open Women's Singles Draw

Jessica Pegula upset in French Open third round

Jessica Pegula French Open

Jessica Pegula, the highest-ranked American man or woman, was upset in the third round of the French Open.

Elise Mertens, the 28th seed from Belgium, bounced the third seed Pegula 6-1, 6-3 to reach the round of 16. Pegula, a 29-year-old at a career-high ranking, had lost in the quarterfinals of four of the previous five majors.

Down 4-3 in the second set, Pegula squandered three break points in a 14-minute game. Mertens then broke Pegula to close it out.

“I feel like I was still playing good points. Elise was just being really tough, not making a lot of errors and making me play every single ball. And with the windy conditions, I felt like it definitely played into her game,” Pegula said.

Pegula’s exit leaves No. 6 seed Coco Gauff, last year’s runner-up, as the last seeded hope to become the first U.S. woman to win a major title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major span without an American champ is the longest for U.S. women since Monica Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

Mertens, who lost in the third or fourth round of the last six French Opens, gets 96th-ranked Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 2021 French Open runner-up, for a spot in the quarterfinals.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Also Friday, No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus won a third consecutive match in straight sets, then took questions from a selected group of reporters rather than conducting an open press conference. She cited mental health, two days after a tense back and forth with a journalist asking questions about the war, which she declined to answer.

“For many months now I have answered these questions at tournaments and been very clear in my feelings and my thoughts,” she said Friday. “These questions do not bother me after my matches. I know that I have to provide answers to the media on things not related to my tennis or my matches, but on Wednesday I did not feel safe in press conference.”

Sabalenka next plays American Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion now ranked 30th, who reached the fourth round with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 win over Kazakh Yulia Putintseva.

Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, the former world No. 3, is into the fourth round of her first major since October childbirth. She’ll play ninth-seeded Russian Daria Kasatkina.

Novak Djokovic continued his bid for a men’s record-breaking 23rd major title by dispatching No. 29 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-2. Djokovic’s fourth-round opponent will be No. 13 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland or 94th-ranked Peruvian Juan Pablo Varillas.

Later Friday, top seed Carlos Alcaraz faces 26th seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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