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Simone Biles wins Core Hydration Classic to kick off road to Paris

Simone Biles wins Core Hydration Classic to kick off road to Paris

HARTFORD, Conn. — 2024 is looking golden so far for Simone Biles.

Biles, the 37-time world and Olympic medalist won the Core Hydration Classic in her first meet of the season. The competition floor in Hartford was star-studded and featured eight Olympic and world championship medalists, including Olympic all-around champions Suni Lee and Gabby Douglas.

Douglas, who is eyeing her third Olympic team at 28 years old, pulled out of the competition after struggling on the uneven bars in the first rotation. She hit a clean set in warmups, but fell twice in the event in competition for a 10.100.

Biles started the meet with a 14.550 on the balance beam, where she is the reigning world champion. On the floor exercise, she competed an eponymous skill — the triple-twisting double salto — for the first time since the qualifying round at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Biles earned the highest score of the entire night — 15.600 — when she performed a Yurchenko double pike on the vault, another skill that bears her name.

2024 Core Hydration Classic (Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images)
2024 Core Hydration Classic (Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images)

She secured the all-around title with a strong showing on the uneven bars for a 14.550.

“I was just happy to be back out there,” Biles said on the Peacock broadcast. “As long as we’re there cheering each other on and hoping for the best and having confidence in each other’s gymnastics, then it’s going to work.”

Shilese Jones solidified herself as the nation’s strongest all-around gymnast behind Biles, finishing second in the all-around and winning the uneven bars with a massive 15.250.

TOPSHOT-GYMNASTICS-USA-WOMEN-COMPETITION (Charly Triballeau / AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT-GYMNASTICS-USA-WOMEN-COMPETITION (Charly Triballeau / AFP via Getty Images)

Lee, the reigning Olympic all-around champion, won the balance beam with a 14.600. She did not do the uneven bars, but hopes to do all four events at the upcoming U.S. Championships in Fort Worth, Texas.

“I think I’m starting to build a lot more confidence on beam,” Lee said after the meet. “I think it’s super important that we start feeling the nerves now because it’s only gonna get harder.”

She said she is taking her mental preparation day by day. “I’m trying to give myself some grace and realize that I’m just not where I want to be quite yet,” Lee said. “But it’s only going to get better.”

Konnor McClain also withdrew from the competition despite a strong outing on the balance beam. She appeared to sustain an injury while warming up for her second rotation on the floor exercise and re-emerged into the arena on crutches. McClain, the 2022 U.S. champion, helped the LSU Tigers to their first NCAA championship last month. This meet was her first elite competition in nearly two years.

Saturday’s competition was the final qualification opportunity for the U.S. Championships later this month. Biles and her fellow Olympic champions had already punched their tickets to Fort Worth, but the Classic was an important stepping stone to making the five-member Paris Olympics team this summer.

Douglas, a three-time Olympic gold medalist, had also already qualified for the U.S. Championships, but will need to petition in order to compete all four events there.

The Classic is one of a handful of competitions this season that the selection committee will use to determine the members of the Paris Olympics team, culminating at the end of June in Minneapolis at the Olympic trials.

Biles’ victory Saturday was her first competitive outing since the World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, in October, when she won a historic sixth individual all-around world title, medaled on three of the four events and led the U.S. women to their seventh straight victory in the team competition.

Three weeks ago, Douglas returned to competition for the first time since the 2016 Rio Olympics at the American Classic in Katy, Texas. She placed 10th in the all-around there, but her scores on the vault and the balance beam qualified her to compete in the two events at the U.S. Championships.

“I have to give myself a little bit of grace,” Douglas said of her comeback. “It ended rough for me in 2016, so I didn’t want to end on that note. I want to make sure I end on love and joy instead of hating something that I love.”

At a training session in Hartford on Friday, Douglas said she “felt so much nostalgia.”

“I love this generation,” she said. “We’re pushing the boundaries and saying, ‘Hey, you don’t have to be 16.’”

The gymnasts representing the U.S. in Paris will be selected at the Olympic trials on June 27-30. The athletes competing there will be determined at the U.S. Championships.

This article first appeared on NBCNews.com.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com