Simone Biles
Simone Biles, a seven-time Olympic medalist and the 2016 Olympic champion, practicers on the uneven bars at the US Classic gymnastics competition on Friday, in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. Image Credit: AP

Hoffman Estates: Four-time Olympic gold medal gymnast Simone Biles geared up for her highly anticipated return to competition with an impressive practice session ahead of Saturday's US Classic - her first event since the Tokyo Olympics.

The 26-year-old superstar, a 19-time world champion, has not taken part in elite competition since her drama-filled campaign at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics two years ago.

After struggling in the early rounds of the team competition at those Games, she withdrew and then pulled out of the all-around competition as well as the vault, uneven bars and floor disciplines.

On Friday, she spent time on the four apparatuses with familiar routines and finished on the vault where she performed the highly challenging Yurchenko double pike.

She did not speak to reporters after the session, but Biles's coach, Cecile Landi, said there had been no late doubts from Biles about getting back into action.

"We wouldn't be here if we had seen any hesitation," Landi said. "It's her will to be here, we support it, we see it, so as long as she tells us she is good to go, we're going to continue."

Biles had first mentioned she wanted to return during a dinner at a Mexican restaurant in March, Landi said, and then ramped up her efforts after her wedding in May.

"I would say it's after her wedding once everything was over, that we saw a shift in her training and commitment to being back," she said.

Once back to work, Landi said she realized that Biles's skill-set remained solid despite the time away from the sport.

"She could do everything that she could do before," Landi said. "I think we just used the routines... to make it as mentally and physically comfortable as she could handle."

Biles has said that in Tokyo she felt as if she had the "weight of the world on my shoulders."

She said her issues had been due to an attack of what gymnasts call the "twisties" - where athletes become disoriented and lose their sense of where they are in the air at a given moment, potentially leaving them at risk of injury when they land.

She eventually returned for the balance beam final, opting for a less ambitious routine than usual that earned a bronze medal.

But her Tokyo experience opened up a wide-ranging debate about mental health in sport and the pressures of high expectations on elite athletes.

Biles, among dozens of top gymnasts who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of jailed US team doctor Larry Nassar, continues to use a therapist to help her with the mental side of the sport.

She has yet to decide if her comeback will lead her to next year's Olympics in Paris but a successful performance this weekend will surely lead to increased hopes of a third Olympics appearance.

Biles also used the US Classic as her comeback meet in 2018 after taking a lengthy break following her gold-medal campaign at the Rio Olympics.

But Landi said there's a different feel to Biles' approach this time.

"She really wants it for herself," Landi said. "She is a married woman, she has matured, she knows what she wants and we are just around her to support her."