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Simone Biles makes history on opening day of qualifying at World Artistic Gymnastics Championships

By Issy Ronald, CNN

(CNN) — Simone Biles announced her return to the world stage in some style on Sunday as she sits in first place in the women’s all-around qualification at the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships and became the first woman to land the Yurchenko double pike vault at an international competition.

Biles stepped up to the vault, launched high into the air, twisting in angular blue blur, and landed with just a single backwards step to make history.

That feat ensured the skill will now be named the Biles II in honor of the 19-time world champion, making it her fifth named element.

A high-difficulty skill historically only done by men, the element is a roundoff onto the springboard, followed by a back handspring onto the vaulting table, ending with a piked double backflip into the air to landing.

She posted an all-around score of 58.865 to sit in first place at the end of her qualifying session, and in a commanding position to reach all four individual finals and the all-around final later in the week.

After her qualifying round, the 26-year-old sits in first place on three pieces of apparatus – floor, vault and balance beam – and second on the uneven bars, behind teammate Shilese Jones.

The US as a team posted an impressive qualifying score of 171.395, and though most other teams are yet to complete their own qualifying round, it seems virtually assured that the Americans will reach the team final given that their total bested the 167.263 that saw them qualify in first place last year.

It is Biles’ first competition back on the world stage since the Tokyo 2020 Games when she pulled out of several events suffering from what is known as the “twisties” – a mental block causing a gymnast to lose track of their positions in midair.

Since then, she has once again displayed all the qualities that have carried her to the pinnacle of the sport, coming back to win a record eighth national all-around title.

And by competing in Antwerp, Biles became the first woman to represent the US at six artistic world championships.

Meanwhile, the US men’s gymnastics team secured its spot in the team competition at next year’s Olympic Games in Paris by qualifying for the team final in second place behind Japan.

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