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Simone Biles ends the first day of competition at the US Gymnastics Championships with the lead

Simone Biles kicked off her quest for a record 8th US title with a remarkable performance at Friday night’s competition at the US Gymnastics Championships in San Jose, California.

The four-time Olympic gold medalist ends the opening day of competition in first place with a score of 59.3, 2.75 points ahead of the field.

Biles had a dazzling balance beam routine in her first rotation, though it got off to a shaky start after Biles’ foot was off-balance on the beam. She recovered to score a 14.50, placing her at the top to start the day.

Biles and world all-around silver medalist Shilese Jones were tied at 29.25 points through the second rotation. Biles then took the lead after pulling off a Yurchenko double pike and following it up with a Cheng on the vault, then closed out the night with a miraculous performance on the uneven bars.

“Beams started off a little bit rough, but that’s kind of to be expected. You get your nerves out of the way and then after that, it was pretty smooth sailing,” Biles told the Peacock broadcast when asked about her performance. “Pretty happy with the overall meet today.”

When asked what drives her to win the historic eighth title, Biles said, “I think I just have personal goals that I want to meet and keep pushing for so that’s what I’m aiming for.”

Heading into the next day of the competition, Jones is in second place while Skye Blakely is in third.

Biles will have an opportunity to add to her ever-extending list of accolades this weekend as the competition continues through Sunday. The 26-year-old could become the only gymnast – man or woman – to win eight US all-around titles. Her seven titles are tied with Alfred Jochim.

Biles returned to action earlier this month after an almost two-year hiatus, winning in triumphant fashion at the Core Hydration Classic.

Meanwhile, Suni Lee, the Olympic gold medalist in the individual all-around in 2021, only participated in two events at nationals – scoring a 13.35 on the vault and a 13.65 on the beam. Lee has been recovering from a kidney issue that has kept her out of competition since earlier this year.

This marks the first time ever that two Olympic all-around gold medalists – Biles and Lee – will take part in a US Gymnastics Championships.

How to watch

Day two of the event is starting at 3.30 p.m. PST (6.30 p.m. ET/11.30 p.m. UK time) on Sunday.

Coverage of the US Gymnastics Championships will be domestically broadcast on NBC and Peacock while international viewers can watch the event on the USA Gymnastics YouTube channel.

A winning return

Biles’ return to competitive gymnastics at the Core Hydration Classic was the seven-time Olympic medalist’s first outing since pulling out of several events at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

She withdrew from the women’s team final after suffering from what is known as the “twisties” – a mental block that causes gymnasts to lose track of their position in midair.

Biles opted not to compete in four individual finals at the Tokyo Games, but she did return to compete in the balance beam, winning bronze after using a modified dismount in her routine.

Asked about why she decided to return, Biles replied: “I always kind of knew as soon as everything that happened in Tokyo. So this time, I’m doing it for me. I worked a lot on myself, and I believe in myself a little bit more, just coming back out here and starting the first steps again.”

The Core Hydration Classic was the final opportunity for athletes to qualify for the national championships. The world gymnastics championships are then scheduled to take place between September 30 and October 8 in Antwerp, Belgium.

Biles is the most decorated gymnast in US history, winning 32 medals across the Olympics and the world championships.

Among her medal haul are four golds at the Olympic Games and 19 golds at the world championships – the most by any gymnast in history.

Biles’ experiences have seen her become her a celebrated advocate for mental health.

Even in the months after the Olympics, she said she was still “scared to do gymnastics,” but recently said on Instagram that she is “twisting again. No worries. All is good.”

This post appeared first on cnn.com

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