Biles stars at U.S. Classic; Douglas pulls out after 1 event

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Competing for the first time this year at Saturday's U.S. Classic, and just two months before the Olympic Games in Paris, Simone Biles proved she remains the top American gymnast as she won the all-around title (59.500) by 1.85 points over Shilese Jones.

"I was just happy to be back out there, get through those nerves again, feel that adrenaline," Biles told NBC after the meet. "I can't really complain how the first meet back was."

In a meet marred by falls and injuries, the 27-year-old Biles showed few signs of rust and won the title on floor and finished in second place on balance beam and uneven bars. Her 15.600 score on vault for her Yurchenko double pike -- also known as the Biles II -- was the day's highest score on any event. She was not eligible to place as she did only one vault instead of the required two.

The packed crowd at XL Center cheered Biles on loudly through the meet and remained largely in its seats to shower her with an ovation -- and high-pitched screams -- when she stood atop the podium during the awards ceremony.

Coach Cecile Canqueteau-Landi said Biles has a different attitude at this point in her career than she had at previous ones.

"I don't know if we can see it, but she's way more relaxed and enjoying competing and having fun," Canqueteau-Landi told reporters. "Truly, I think she really found why she's doing it -- and I think for the very first time it's truly for her."

Jones, who led the meet at the halfway mark, won the title on bars and finished tied for second place on floor. Her 57.650 final tally was more than two points better than the rest of the non-Biles field.

"I'm more confident in myself," Jones said after the meet about how her mentality has changed throughout the quad leading up to the Olympics. "I've grown a little bit, got older at the same time, moved back home and I'm just striving and building confidence each competition. Before I was the underdog; I feel like [now] I'm just showing to the world and proving myself."

Biles, the 2016 Olympic all-around gold medalist and reigning world champion, was one of three Olympic all-around champions competing at the meet -- a first for any competition in gymnastics history -- as Gabby Douglas (2012) and Sunisa Lee (2020) were also in the field.

After an eight-year hiatus, Douglas officially returned at last month's American Classic. On Saturday, after receiving a warm ovation from the crowd at the meet's start, Douglas had two falls in her opening rotation on bars and received a meet-low 10.100. She withdrew from the remainder of the competition and did not speak to media.

Participating in three events, opting out of her signature bars, Lee finished in first place on beam with a score of 14.600. She returned to competition earlier this year after being sidelined with a career-threatening kidney disease.

Jade Carey, the 2020 Olympic gold medalist on floor, and Jordan Chiles, who was part of the silver medal-winning team in Tokyo, were also in action.

Carey won the vault title and finished in fourth place in the all-around. Chiles finished third in the all-around and tied for third on bars. She later joyously tossed her celebratory flower bouquet to the crowd as if she were a bride at a wedding.

After scoring a 14.200 on balance beam to open the competition, Konnor McClain -- who helped lead LSU to its first NCAA team title last month -- suffered a meet-ending Achilles injury during warmups on floor. McClain was the 2022 all-around national champion. She finished in third place on her lone event.

The U.S. Classic was the first of three national meets leading up to the Games.

The next event, the Xfinity U.S. Gymnastics Championships, begins May 30 in Fort Worth, Texas. The Olympic trials, which is where the five-person team for Paris is named, will take place June 27-30 in Minneapolis.