Simone Biles Cries "Tears of Joy" After Making a Triumphant Return to Elite Gymnastics

The GOAT is back. On Aug. 5, Simone Biles competed in her first gymnastics event since 2021, and walked away with the all-around title. The athlete's impressive performance earned her a ticket to the US National Gymnastics Championships taking place at the SAP Center in San Jose, CA, from Aug. 24 to 27.

Biles scored an incredible 15.4 in the vault, 14.9 in the floor exercise, 14.8 on the balance beam, and 14.0 on the uneven bars. Her scores led her to place first in the all-around, as well as in the vault, floor routine, and the balance beam. She came in third on the uneven bars.

On Sunday afternoon, Biles took to Instagram to share her feelings about returning to competition, writing: "tears of joy as I make this comeback, surrounded by the love you've shown! thank you for believing in me 🫶🏾".

Biles' husband, NFL safety Jonathan Owens, commented on the post, hyping her up: "So damn proud of you baby ❤️❤️❤️ Makes my day seeing you so happy and back doing what you love, and having FUN!!! I love you so much 🤞🏽"

After her performance, Biles spoke with NBC about what it was like to have such a triumphant return to competitive gymnastics. "It felt really good, especially after everything that's happened over the past year," she said. "Everyone that was cheering, made posters and all that in the crowd, it just made my heart melt that they still believe in me. And I got back out here and I did what I was training, so I'm very happy with the result."

She went on to share why she decided to return after stepping away from the Tokyo Olympics for the sake of her mental health. Biles explained, "I always kind of knew, as soon as everything that happened in Tokyo. So this time, I'm doing it for me. I worked a lot on myself, and I believe in myself a little bit more, just coming back out here and starting the first steps again."

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On June 28, USA Gymnastics announced that Biles would be returning to the mat for the first time since the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the summer of 2021. The seven-time Olympic gold medalist made her comeback at the 2023 US Classic, held on August 4–5 at the Now Arena outside of Chicago.

On July 5, after a flurry of news coverage, Biles made her first public statement since the announcement, tweeting, "sorry I've been a little MIA since the announcement 🤍 I'm overwhelmed with all of your messages, support & love! excited to get back out on the competition floor! XOXO".

Fellow gold-medal-winning teammate Sunisa (Suni) Lee also participated in the US Classic as her first elite meet since Tokyo. (In the meantime, she has competed for two seasons with Auburn University in collegiate gymnastics.) In an exclusive interview on behalf of Lego's Team Unstoppable (of which Lee is a part), she told POPSUGAR that she's "excited . . . but also super nervous" to return to elite competition.

And she was thrilled that her teammate Biles would be there, too. "I wasn't expecting [Biles to be competing], but I honestly think it's really great news," Lee told POPSUGAR. "I mean, how the last Olympics went was obviously crazy, as everybody knows, so I think it's incredible for her to show that she's willing to come back and, like, make this statement. Also, she's somebody that inspires me, so it's really cool to see her [compete again] because she's just absolutely amazing. It's just incredible news."

During the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Biles notably chose to withdraw from the Olympic team competition due to a mental block commonly referred to as the "twisties." "not at all how I imagined or dreamed my second olympics would go but blessed to represent the usa," she shared in an Instagram post in August 2021. "I'll forever cherish this unique olympic experience. thanks everyone for the endless love and support. I'm truly grateful."

In the lead-up to the Olympics, athletes are expected to push themselves to their limits, physically and mentally, with little to no consideration for their well-being. Biles's decision to prioritize her mental health over medals sparked an international conversation about the overall safety and well-being of athletes. Women athletes, in particular — including Lee and Naomi Osaka — have been more outspoken in recent years about safeguarding their mental health.

After her exit from the games, Biles received overwhelming amounts of "love and support" from friends, family, and fans. "The outpouring love & support I've received has made me realize I'm more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before," Biles wrote on Twitter in response to her fans' solidarity.

Since Tokyo, the gymnast has continued to advocate for athletes' mental health and cheer on her teammates. She also married Owens in April, splitting the event into two separate celebrations in Houston and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Now that Biles has come out on top at the US Classic, fans are hopeful that her return to the mat is an indication that she will compete alongside her team at the 2024 Paris Olympics. When CNBC asked about her plans, the Olympian wouldn't definitively say she's heading back to the Olympics just yet.

"We're still in the working steps," Biles said. "My main goal was this, and then championships. And then after that, we'll look onto World, and then we'll see, but so far it's heading in the right direction. But I still have to work on myself; I'm still going to do my therapy. I'm still going to put myself first."

— Additional reporting by Lauren Mazzo