Simone Biles did not perform the historic Yurchenko double pike vault that she debuted less than two weeks ago, nor the double twisting-double back dismount named after her on balance beam, but still leads by a wide margin after the first of two nights at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships.
Halfway to a seventh national title, Biles’ score of 59.75 points leads Suni Lee by 2.4 points going into Sunday’s conclusion when the women will again perform on all four apparatuses in Fort Worth, Texas. Biles’ training mate and close friend Jordan Chiles is in third, 0.45 back from Lee with 56.9.
With a win this weekend, Biles, 24, would break a tie she holds with Clara Schroth Lomady for most all-around national titles.
Biles cleaned up her two major mistakes from the U.S. Classic, her first competition in 18 months that was held just 13 days ago: a fall on bars and putting her hands down on floor exercise. She did have a couple of minor errors on Friday, including separating her legs on bars and a bobble on beam.
Still, the 25-time world championship medalist led the field in three of four events, with a 15.80 on vault, 14.85 on floor and 14.35 on beam. Her floor routine, which included two eponymous skills, was so powerful that two tumbling passes sent her out of bounds.
“Tonight I feel like it was really good, it was definitely better than Classic,” Biles told Andrea Joyce on NBCSN. “Floor could have been a little bit better, I need to control my adrenaline.”
Biles’ 14.75 on uneven bars, consistently her least favorite event throughout her career, was second to Lee.
The 2019 world bronze medalist on bars, Lee performed what NBC analyst and 2008 Olympic champion Nastia Liukin called “absolutely the most difficult bar routine in the entire world,” with Tim Daggett adding that it would have earned the gold at those worlds. Her routine scored 15.30 points, creating a 0.55 margin between her and Biles on that event.
The meet is a memorable one for Lee, whose father John is in attendance less than two years after he fell off a ladder days prior to the 2019 U.S. championships, an accident which left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Jade Carey (55.45), who has already qualified for the Olympic team as an individual, and Leanne Wong (55.3) round out the top five.
At 32 years old, Chellsie Memmel was once again a highlight of the meet in her second competition back from a nine-year retirement.
Competing with her husband and both of her kids in attendance for the first time, the 2005 world champion and 2008 Olympian began her night on vault. Memmel performed a double-twisting Yurchenko for the first time in 15 years, scoring 14.75 points for the fifth-highest vault score. She came off bars, which she added after only competing vault and beam at last month’s U.S. Classic, earning just 11.65 points there, but had a solid beam routine that tied for sixth place with a 13.7.
The third and final Olympian in the field, 2016 beam silver medalist Laurie Hernandez, scored 12.4 points for her beam routine in the first rotation and then withdrew from the remainder of the night. Hernandez’s left knee was wrapped during her beam routine.
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Simone Biles leads halfway through, primed for seventh national title originally appeared on NBCSports.com