Simone Biles of the United States made a remarkable and dramatic return to international gymnastics on Sunday, two years after her tearful farewell from the Tokyo Olympics.
During women’s qualification, the 26-year-old became the first female gymnast to perform a “Yurchenko double pike vault,” subsequently titled “Biles II.”
Her ambitious return earned her 15.266 points, far ahead of the competition.
She finished the four apparatuses with a total of 58.865 points, taking the lead in qualifying.
Biles, a 19-time world and four-time Olympic winner, arrived in Japan for the 2021 Olympics as the overwhelming favorite, thanks to her four championships in Rio five years earlier.
She, however, broke down in front of a global audience, withdrew from the majority of the activities.
She then revealed that she was battling “twisties,” a brief mental block in which gymnasts lose sense of where they are in the air, putting them at danger of harm when they land.
She returned to action in early August, demonstrating that she had lost none of her tremendous level.
She won the US Classic, where she obtained the best scores on vault, floor and beam, followed by a record eighth US all-around title at the national championships.
“I think what success means to me is a little bit different than before because before everyone defined success for me, even if I had my own narrative that I wanted,” Biles told Olympics.com prior to the world championships.
“So, now, it’s just showing up, being in a good head place, having fun out there, and whatever happens, happens.”
On Sunday, she also competed on the uneven bars for 14.400 points, balance beam where she scored 14.566 and then soared on the floor exercise for a reward of 14.633.
That paved the way for her spectacular vault.
Biles and her USA team will now go for team gold on Wednesday in Antwerp.
Chiba inspires Japan
Meanwhile, Kenta Chiba led the way as Japan dominated the men’s team all-around qualifiers.
With 258.228 points, they are four points ahead of the United States and Britain.
They also occupy the first three places in the individual standings.
Chiba finished first with 85.799 points, ahead of teammate Kazuma Kaya (85.598) and Daiki Hashimoto (85.432), the reigning Olympic and world champion in the individual all-around.
Because each country can only have two athletes in the all-around final, Hashimoto should have been kept out.
But, as the rules allow, his team stated that they chose to keep Hashimoto over Kaya.
The incumbent Olympic champions of each apparatus also dominated the floor, pommel horse, rings, and high bars.
The qualification rounds are also utilized to determine the final team spots for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
The United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Turkey, the Netherlands, and Ukraine have all qualified, joining China, the United Kingdom, and Japan.
France, however, missed out on a berth at their own Olympics after finishing 19th in qualifying.
“We knew we had to achieve something almost perfect to qualify,” said one of the team, Jim Zona.
France also failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.