AP Photo / Jay LaPrete
19659003] In their first competition since the Rio Olympics, Simone Biles set a world record in 2018 on the ground, vault, beam and allround.
With her results, Biles qualified for the national team in Boston next month. But this meeting also served as a way for them to relax in the competitive season, shake off their nerves, test their new routines and recalibrate their competitive mood. She had no expectations of herself for having fun and the joy of competing.
"I was nervous about how I would handle everything," she said. "To get from bars to where I fell and to shine and set a routine, I was quite proud of how I handled it."
While this meeting meant their return to the competition, Columbus offered a homecoming for Biles, who was born 21 years ago at Ohio State University Hospital and has many family members in the area. Many of them, as well as their parents and boyfriend, cheered her in matching red T-shirts. "It's so exciting for my whole family to come out and watch the competition," Biles said. "And we can do an after-party."
Biles was first at the Classic in 2011 as a junior (then in Chicago) and won in 2014 and 2015, the single all-round title. The classic is also where Biles in 2013 recently entered an all-round competition and did not win. That moment, that failure, became part of her superhero-like lore as well as her typical tumbling pass. It caused them to re-evaluate their goals, put them back, and focus on them again.
Over the next three years, Biles was undefeated in all-around competitions, earning the most impressive summary of her sport, winning 14 World Championship medals, 11 national championships and four gold medals and a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. She's just the second gymnast in history to be both world champion and Olympic champion and the first to win three world titles.
After Rio, with its heritage as firmly anchored as the landing in its Amanar vaults, Biles took a break. She participated in Dancing With the Stars, wrote a book, and took time for a friend, a red carpet event, talk shows, and family vacations. Then, last October, she decided it was time to return. But this time her approach would be different. She did not return to gymnastics to strengthen her legacy or increase her country's medal count, and she wanted to share her experience, personality and personal life with her fans, something she could not feel the first time  "This time is for me to come back and have fun and really enjoy the sport and not put so much expectation on myself because I've met many of those in the last quad," Biles said. "Now I have the feeling that I do not have to be so nervous when I go to eggshells because we've already achieved what we did in Rio, we're already Olympians at this point where you were nervous above all messing up whatever you want to do, I'll come back and do what I want to do, and I will not do it for anyone else. "
In line with her commitment to a new openness, Biles shares photos of date nights with her boyfriend, former gymnast Stacey Ervin, Jr. and beach trips with her friends on Instagram. She tweets when she hurts, when she has problems training, and when there is something in her mind she wants to share with her fans. In a January mail that was shared more than 22,000 times, Biles revealed that she had also been abused by former USA gymnastics and Michigan state doctor Larry Nassar, who pays federal and state life funds for owning child pornography and sexual assault. Biles knows that she has a voice that is different from everyone else in her sport, one that can not be ignored, and she says she wants to continue.
"I think someone has to and I'm OK with that voice as long as it's positive," Biles said. "I sometimes feel like it has a lot of weight on my shoulders, but it's inspiring to join the other survivors, we're trying to make a statement, but I'm here talking about all these things, and I think [USA Gymnastics CEO] Kerry Perry has to speak out and do her part, not just from the survivors. "
When Biles returned to training in October, she did so under the guidance of new coach Laurent Landi and his wife, Cecil Canquetequ Landi. Biles' longtime trainer, Aimee Boorman, left the women's program at EVO Athletics in Sarasota, Fla., After the Olympics, and Biles chose the 2014 World Champions Center in Texas, the gym her parents built in 2014 with the Landis training their Rio team-mate Madison Kocian, and they knew the level of gymnast they inherited, as well as the trickle-down expectations that would come with assuming the job.
"You do not think about it. That can not work otherwise," Landi said. "You try to enjoy it as much as possible, because there is one Simone every few years, maybe there is only one Simone, she is special, it's fun to interact with this specialty, because everyone in her field is very is good, is different You have to adapt to their size. "
For the Landis, that meant training the entire gymnast and not just presenting her new toy with the skills they believed she could were to join. Biles is the kind of athlete who wants to be in training and whose coaches need to make room for laughter and fun, as well as for the drilling technique. It also needs affirmation and the freedom to set small, daily goals for oneself.
"She doubts herself more than I thought," said Canquetequ-Landi. "I thought she was freer, we had to work on regaining her self-confidence and making her feel like she was in charge, even if we asked her to do something." If you offer [a skill] first, she is like, "Oh, no, I can not do it, so we're like, there's no pressure, just play with it, have fun." And then she gets it and is like "Whoa. I'm capable of that. "You have to make fun of her, so she's ready to give it a try."
That was especially true of bars with which Biles has a notoriously tolerated hate relationship. "She does not believe in her skills at the bars," Landi said. "It's more of a mental issue, she has more faith in me than in herself, and little by little I try to transfer that belief to her, and if I think she can do something, I'll tell her every day, you as Simone Biles, should believe a little more in you. "
These daily affirmations have paid off – fast. At the classic Biles debuted a completely reworked bars routine and new skills on beams and floor. The fact that she has increased the difficulty of her routine is not surprising to anyone, but the fact that she took her out in a competition less than a year after her return to training is unprecedented.
"I'm surprised she has added more trouble already," said Tom Forster, high-performance team coordinator for the US women's national team. "Normally, [a returning Olympian] sticks to what they had, and that has overshadowed them and done a lot more, I've never seen that, if it was a different kind of sport, like football or basketball, it would be in every newspaper unbelievable. "
But this is Simone Biles, a gymnast, for whom one can no longer expect. Instead, she develops and brings the sport with her.