Simone Biles leads 2023 Xfinity U.S. Gymnastics Championships after near-perfect vault

By Patricia Duffy | August 25, 2023
Simone Biles on beam during Day 1 of senior women's competition at the 2023 Xfinity U.S. Gymnastics Championships.

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Simone Biles is chasing history at the 2023 Xfinity U.S. Gymnastics Championships.

Everyone else is just quasi-chasing Simone.

The leaderboard at the halfway point of Day 1 of the senior women’s competition showed Biles and 2022 world all-around silver medalist Shilese Jones tied with matching 29.250s, but as is often the case in gymnastics, it wasn’t an accurate reflection of the state of the competition.

Biles started on beam – the lowest-scoring event – and floor while Jones started on her two highest-scoring events – vault and bars. If the two had been rotating together, in Olympic order, Biles would’ve led Jones by eight-tenths after two rotations.

After Day 1, Biles is on top with a 59.300 as she tries to become the first man or woman to win eight U.S. all-around titles.

Jones is 2.55 points behind in second with a 56.750, and 2022 world team gold medalist Skye Blakely is third with a 55.700.

It’s just perspective, not to take away from what Jones did on Saturday night in her first meet back since the 2022 world championships.

To get that close to Biles after the 2016 Olympic all-around champion trounced the field at the Core Hydration Classic by five points is a feat in itself, and to do so after 10 months away from competition, battling injuries, is even more impressive.

“I never really doubt myself,” Jones said after the meet. “I push myself really hard. I know what I’m capable of doing and 2024 is all in, so whatever it takes. If there [are] bumps in the road, I’m here for it, and we’re gonna get over it.”

The only major blemish during Jones’ performance on Friday came on beam, when she missed a connection early and then stumbled on her two-footed layout series, touching the apparatus and incurring a significant deduction a result. 

Without the error, Jones would likely be within two points of Biles, although she also didn’t have a perfect night. The seven-time Olympic medalist stumbled on her beam mount, missing a connection, and went out of bounds on floor.

As the events stand now, Biles leads vault (15.300 average), beam (14.450), and floor (14.800), and Jones is tops on bars (14.900).

Whether Biles was going to do two vaults was in question, at least in the public’s eyes, until warmups on Saturday, when she busted out the Cheng for the first time in her comeback.

Just two days ago, her coach, Laurent Landi, said the Yurchenko double pike was the priority, and they were working up to adding the Cheng as her second vault. 

Landi revealed after Friday’s meet that Biles did the Cheng during closed podium training on Tuesday, didn’t do it during streamed podium training on Wednesday as to not “overload her legs,” and then she ultimately decided she felt good enough to compete it.

As for the Yurchenko double pike, which she received a near-perfect 9.8 execution score for, Landi isn’t opposed to stepping off the podium so his gymnast can be awarded the score she deserves. Currently, he’s spotting her (aka standing there for her safety) and Biles is incurring an automatic -0.5 neutral deduction as a result.

It’s a rule that might make some scratch their head, since coaches are allowed to spot without penalty on bars. Based on the Landis’ reaction Friday night — when they were asked whether it’s fair — they agree.

“Yeah, whatever. Rules,” Cecile Landi, Laurent’s wife and Biles’ other coach, said, as her husband made a face to suggest he agrees.

As for the other Olympic all-around champion in the field, Suni Lee fell on her flight series on beam (13.650). She’s only competing two events at championships, the other being vault (full-twisting Yurchenko — 13.350) as she continues to battle an ongoing kidney-related health issue. She did not petition to compete all-around at championships, but the plan is to do all four events if she makes it to world team selection camp.

For a full play-by-play of Day 1, check out our live blog.

Simone Rose rising

Pacific Reign’s Simone Rose leads the junior women after Day 1, with a 53.050.

Close behind her is Winter Cup champion Hezly Rivera (52.750) and American and Core Hydration Classic champion Kieryn Finnell (52.500).

2022 U.S. Classic champion Jayla Hang returned to competition Friday after recovering from a foot injury, but the return was cut short when she under-rotated her double-twisting Yurchenko on vault. She was helped off the podium by her coaches and medical staff, scratched from bars, her last event of the day, and was seen in a boot later.

For a full play-by-play of Day 1, check out our live blog.