FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Simone Biles put herself in position to win a ninth national gymnastics title, stringing together four occasionally brilliant rotations to take a massive lead Friday night at the U.S. Championships.

The 27-year-old, eyeing a third Olympic trip this summer, had an all-around total of 60.450, the highest in the world since the beginning of 2022. It also was more than three points clear of Skye Blakely in second at 57.050 and Kayla DiCello in third at 56.850.

Two months out from Paris, Biles looks perhaps as good as ever. The seven-time Olympic medalist and six-time world champion began her night with her Yurchenko Double Pike vault, clasping her hands to her knees as somersaulted backward — twice — before landing with so much force her momentum carried her back a step.

No matter, her score of 15.8 included a 9.4 for execution, a massive number for a vault so difficult no woman other than Biles has ever attempted in a major competition and only a select number of men have even tried it.

Yet Biles has mastered it to the point that it’s become just part of the show, a show that remains — when she is at her best — unparalleled in the sport, and arguably the Olympic movement for that matter.

Barring injury, she’s all but assured of a room in the Olympic Village in late July. The question of which other four women will join her, however, likely won’t be sorted out until the waning moments of the Olympic Trials in Minneapolis at the end of June.

Shilese Jones, the second-best all-around gymnast in the U.S. behind Biles, pulled out of the championships Friday afternoon, citing a shoulder injury. Jones plans to petition into Olympic Trials, a petition that will almost certainly be granted.

If healthy, Jones is as close to a lock as there is. After her, however, plenty of intrigue abounds in arguably the deepest field in at least a generation.

Blakely was just 16 when she unexpectedly became eligible for the pandemic-delayed 2020 Olympics. That run ended with a ruptured elbow at the Olympic Trials. The 19-year-old was easily the best gymnast not named Biles on Friday, highlighted by a steady 14.450 on beam.

DiCello, who left the University of Florida to return to Maryland and convinced her elite coach Kelli Hill to come out of retirement in the process in pursuit of the Olympics, rebounded from a shaky performance at the U.S. Classic two weeks ago to put herself in position to reach the podium at the end of Sunday’s finals.

Sunisa Lee, the 2020 Olympic champion, took another step forward while trying to navigate a pair of kidney-related issues that complicated her training (and in some ways her life). Lee competed in all four events for the first time this season, capping her performance with a 14.300 on bars — her best event — despite intentionally watering her routine down a bit to ensure she would hit it.

Jordan Chiles, a 2020 Olympian and a three-time world championship medalist, continued her resurgence. Rocking a multi-colored leotard that’s a nod to pop superstar Beyonce, Chiles’ night included a rock-solid 14.5 on uneven bars. The only real hiccup came at the end of her floor routine, when she shorted her final tumbling pass and lurched forward.


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