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Back in Competition, It’s Like Simone Biles Never Left

The emotional weight of Biles’s comeback created a strange juxtaposition: all eyes on one woman, even though, far beyond Biles, the field for this year’s U.S. Classic was unusually stacked.

It included not one, but four members of the Tokyo team — Biles, Jade Carey, Jordan Chiles and Sunisa Lee, the reigning Olympic all-around champion — and two Tokyo alternates, Kayla DiCello and Leanne Wong. And it included Joscelyn Roberson, a 17-year-old who would probably be making headlines as the next big thing if so many of the last cycle’s big things were not still at the top of their game.

Roberson — who trains alongside Biles in Texas — dominated the first session of the competition in the early afternoon, earning the highest scores of the session on vault, beam and floor before falling on a release move that she had recently added to her bars routine. She nonetheless finished third and was cheerful in an interview after the competition, saying she saw it as “a practice meet” for the national championships.

During warm-ups a couple of hours before the competition began, Biles seemed happy, even relaxed. At one point, she took a break to joke with reporters that she might not be able to do a compulsory routine — a standardized, relatively low-difficulty set that gymnasts used to be required to compete alongside their full-difficulty routines, to emphasize clean execution — because some simple skills are beyond the woman who can do a Yurchenko double pike.

She seemed to be there because she wanted to be there.

Next, in just three weeks, will be the national championships in San Jose, Calif. And perhaps, in almost exactly a year, the Olympic Games in Paris — if she chooses.

“Right now, I think I should just embrace what happened today,” she said when asked after the competition whether returning to the Olympics was her goal. “I know everybody is just like — when you get married, they ask you when you’re having a baby. You come to Classics, they’re asking you about the Olympics. I think we’re just trying to take it one step at a time.”

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