The GOAT has returned to the mat.
At the 2023 U.S. Classic in Chicago Aug. 4, Olympian Simone Biles—the most decorated gymnast in the world—made her comeback to the competitive world for the first time since the 2020 Olympics. And as if she had never taken a step back from the sport, the 26-year-old finished first in the all-around, vault, floor routine and balance beam. She placed third on the uneven bars.
"Everyone that was cheering, made posters and all of that in the crowd, it just made my heart melt that they still believe in me," she gushed to NBC Sports after the competition. "I'm very shocked."
Back in 2021, she had withdrawn from several finals at the Tokyo Games, citing mental health concerns and a case of the "twisties," or mid-air disorientation, before making a comeback and winning a bronze medal in the balance beam final.
However, in June, after two year away her return was announced. Her reemergence for the event is especially significant as it marks the last chance for athletes to qualify for the national championships in San Jose, Calif. later this month.
Ahead of Saturday's competition, her coaches Cecile Canqueteau-Landi and Laurent Landi told Sports Illustrated that Biles was in a good place mentally and physically. "We wouldn't be here if she had any hesitations," Canqueteau-Landi said. "It's her will to be here. We're supportive."
And though Biles admitted she still gets "a little bit nervous," she's proudly been working on her mental game. "I know my body is capable, prepared and all of that stuff, so I just have to trust my training," she told NBC, adding, "It was like a mental injury, you know? So something like that, I knew with the proper work and the proper help, I could come back and hopefully have a shot."
As for what that means for the 2024 Paris Olympics?
"We're still in the working steps," Biles shared. "My main goal was this, and then [U.S.] championships, and then after we'll look onto worlds, and then we'll see, but so far it's heading in the right direction."
Indeed, all signs point in that direction. Ahead of the U.S. Classic, she took to Instagram Stories Aug. 3 to show a red, white, blue, silver and gold balloon display with an Olympic rings-themed sign that read, "Welcome to NOW Arena. The journey to Paris 2024 starts here."