Simone Biles returns to the Artistic Gymnastics World Cup as the great favorite | Sports


Simone Biles returns to Antwerp. Where it all started. Her first World Cup in her career, her first premature international victory. And her first hit on the table was her as an artistic gymnastics prodigy at 16 years old. Since then a decade has passed, and the figure of Simone Biles has only grown. After 25 World Cup and seven Olympic medals, Biles returns to the Artistic Gymnastics World Cup in Belgium with the intention of winning it all. An event, furthermore, in which athletes will look for a place for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. More than 500 athletes from 80 countries will fight to be one of the 192 gymnasts at the Games. The Antwerp Sporpaleis in Antwerp – with capacity for 23,000 people – will be packed to see the jumps and acrobatics of Biles, who can win her sixth world title, from September 30 to October 8.

But this is not the debut of the American after her break. Last August Biles already returned in style, as she knows. After stepping away from gymnastics due to mental health issues – she suffered from twisties, known as the disconnection between the body and the mind – during the team final of the Tokyo 2020 games, Simone competed again, and she did so at home, at the US Classic. She turned a low-key US Championship qualifying competition into a spectacle, with tickets sold out and the stands packed. And at the end of August she achieved her eighth national title. More than any other gymnast. Always smiling. “I want to continue pursuing the goals I can achieve. “This year I do things a little differently than I did in the past, I think it is working and I will keep it a secret,” said Biles after the national tournament.

She went on vacation, started therapy and married Jonhatan Owens this spring. She and she trained. Now, in the World Cup, she has the opportunity to achieve her sixth victory in the all around (general competition) and remember his first title at 16 years old. She will also try to surpass the Belarusian legend Vitaly Scherbo, the figure in the discipline with the most medals between world championships and the Olympic Games (33), one more than Biles (32), tied with Larida Latynina. With two metals she would reach the record. It won’t be complicated for her: she is the favorite in vault and floor, the two great specialties of the American. On uneven bars the podium will be contested between the Brazilian Rebeca Andrade -world champion last year-, Kaylia Nemour, Qui Qiyuan and also Shilese Jones. But on the balance beams, in addition to Biles herself, we will have to keep track of Ashikawa Uraua, Qui and Zhang Qingying.

He all around It is named after Biles. But on the rest of the podium steps the fight will be tighter. Andrade will have to face Jones, who took silver for the United States last year, while Jessica Gadirova of Great Britain took bronze. Both with the intention of being among the best three again, always with their eyes on Melanie Dos Santos and Miyata Shoko.

Simone Biles trains on the balance beam in Antwerp.
Simone Biles trains on the balance beam in Antwerp.YVES HERMAN (REUTERS)

Biles will lead the American team, which already has a place in the Olympic Games and is competing to win the seventh consecutive gold medal. Great Britain – also classified – will defend silver, and bronze will be contested between Italy, Brazil, France, Japan, China and Canada, which took third place last year. In the men’s event, a fight is expected between the teams of Japan, with the Olympic champion Hashimoto Daiki, and China, which will not have its star: the 2021 world champion Zhan Boheng. Spain, for its part, aspires to repeat qualification for the Games. The men’s team, with Néstor Abad and Ray Zapata, is closer to an Olympic place if they repeat last year’s solid sixth place. The women’s team, with a young Laura Casabuena, on the other hand, has a more difficult time entering the top nine.

In the last international championship in which she participated, in 2019, Biles showed maturity and achieved five gold medals (team, all around, floor, jump and balance beam). “I think what success means to me has changed a little, because before everyone defined success for me, even though I had my own opinion of what I wanted,” Biles said before the competition. Now it’s just being there, feeling good mentally, having fun and whatever has to happen happens.”

This year Biles has the opportunity to blow out the candles of her tenth anniversary at the World Cup. Small, fast, incredibly athletic. With her confidence recomposed, she will once again spin in the air with somersaults, and fall, as if glued to the mat, without needing to move her arms to balance. Simone Biles has returned to increase her legend.

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