It’s a great time for Team USA gymnastics. Less than a week after 16-year-old American Morgan Hurd upset the international favorites to win the all-around title at worlds in Montreal, 2016 Olympic phenom Simone Biles announced she will return to full-time training on Nov. 1 after just over a year off. Her ultimate goal is to compete at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“It’s going to be rough,” the 20-year-old told NBC Sports on Thursday, noting she’ll also be employing a new coach, who she’ll name later. “But the muscle memory is there because I’ve come and I’ve played in the gym. All of my skills are basically still there. There are a couple of skills, like on [balance] beam, that I haven’t done yet, like a dismount, because why would I just chuck that? There’s no way. And I haven’t vaulted since the Olympics.”
Biles is giving herself plenty of time to get back into top form compared to previous Olympians, including 2016 teammates Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, who took more than two years off after the 2012 Olympics in London to begin training for last summer’s Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Biles, whose combined total of 19 world championships and Olympic medals make her the most decorated American gymnast ever, said her immediate goal is to begin competing on some apparatuses by mid-July, but by the P&G Championships in August to start competing in the all-around category again.
As for up-and-comers like Hurd, Biles is complimentary.
“[Hurd] is still fairly young, and she handled the pressure because she’s never been on a stage like that,” Biles said.
Hurd won’t be the only competition that has emerged while Biles has spent the last year traveling and promoting several charities. Olympic alternate Ragan Smith, 17, has stepped up her game, as well, winning the U.S. championship to assert herself as a favorite going into worlds. Smith was unable to compete, however, due to a last-minute ankle injury she sustained while warming up on the vault.
Biles may get a chance to mingle with both if she chooses to participate in a U.S. national team camp in January. Right now, she said she’ll “probably” attend, but she won’t be doing anything intensive if she goes.
“[I’d go] just to get back in the swing of things,” Biles told NBC Sports. “At least I’ll be back in the rhythm to just go in there and do whatever I need to do. And be with the national team coaches so they can get me up to date on all the new rules and everything.”