Simone Biles is as dominant as ever on the first day of the US Championships

FORT WORTH — When Simone Biles stepped onto the floor, her final act on the first day of the national championships, the match turned into a performance. Children in the audience screamed. Taylor Swift’s “…Ready?” blared from the arena speakers. And Biles, already so far ahead of her peers, spent the next 90 seconds flying through the air using some of the most difficult skills in the world and securing all of her landings. She left no doubt about it.

Biles is as dominant as ever. She moved into the lead on the first day of the US Championships, with a huge all-around score of 60.450. On each apparatus, Biles improved her scores after an excellent performance in her season debut two weeks ago. In this two-day competition that concludes on Sunday, Biles has a lead of more than three points over Skye Blakely in second place.

For years, the second-best Americans have been unable to keep up with Biles, and so her performance is better judged in light of her potential and her past. On Friday at Dickies Arena, Biles didn’t make any major mistakes. Her strength sometimes sends her flying out of bounds on the floor or forces her to take several steps back on the vault, but she remained balanced and in control throughout the evening.

Biles, chasing her ninth US all-around title, nearly got stuck in the triple double tuck that begins her floor routine, and her evening started when she executed an excellent Yurchenko double pike. It’s the most difficult jump in women’s gymnastics, but during the first rotation Friday night, Biles soared through the air, spun twice and planted her feet in the mat. She had just one step back and barely any deductions on her way to a huge 15,800. No other gymnast in this competition scored higher than 15.000.

That vault, so complex and beautifully executed, reminds us how Biles has a significant advantage in every match she enters. She builds up a huge buffer with her difficulty levels and then executes her routines so well that she doesn’t need that margin for error.

Biles worked smoothly through her bars routine, scoring a 14.650, then pivoted to beam and punctuated another strong set with a near-lock, full-twisting double tuck dismount to earn a 14.800. Biles earned top marks of the night in all four events.

This season, Biles has increased her scoring potential on three of the four apparatuses, widening the already large gap between her and her peers in the United States and the rest of the world.

After a disorienting mental block derailed Biles’ performance at the Tokyo Games, forcing her to withdraw from multiple finals, she returned to competition last year. Biles was spectacular and showed no signs of continued problems with her difficult skills. She won five medals, four of them gold, at the world championships, and this season she is performing at an even higher level that no other American can come close to.

Shilese Jones, the nation’s second-best all-around gymnast, withdrew from the national championships due to a shoulder injury. She tore her labrum in 2022, and she said it flared up after the US Classic on May 18. Jones will petition for a spot at the Olympic Trials, and she will almost certainly be allowed to compete. After Sunday’s competition, the U.S. selection committee will announce which gymnasts will advance to the trials.

Jones’ absence creates a battle for second place, and Blakely (57.050) has a narrow lead over Kayla DiCello (56.850) in third. Blakely debuted a new, more difficult jump and scored a 15.000, and she was steady on the other three events. Sunisa Lee, the Olympic all-round champion, is fourth after taking part in an elite all-round competition for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics.

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