San Jose, Calif. -- Simone Biles' vault performance alone was worth the price of admission.
After day one of competition at U.S. gymnastics championships, Biles' all-around score of 59.30 is nearly three points ahead of the field, a likely insurmountable lead considering her vault score alone -- 15.7 -- is nearly one point higher than any other competitor. That's a bigger difference than what separates the second through sixth-place finishers.
The four-time Olympic gold medalist is now one day closer to adding an eighth national all-around title and yet another record to her remarkable résumé. If she continues at her current pace and captures another all-around title Sunday, she will be the first gymnast, man or woman, to win eight, and the oldest U.S. women's all-around champion since USA Gymnastics was created in 1963.
After looking nervous in the opening rotations and rushing the first half of her beam routine -- which still earned the highest score of the night -- Biles stepped out of bounds during an otherwise spectacular floor routine (also the top score).
And then there was vault, where Biles opened with the Yurchenko double pike, a skill in which she is the only woman to attempt in competition, and landed it nearly perfectly. She took the slightest step backward and earned a 9.8 execution score out of 10. As she landed, the crowd erupted in the only standing ovation of the night.
But she had more. Earlier this week, Laurent Landi, one of Biles' coaches, said he planned for Biles to take her time adding a second vault because of the mental toll the Yurchenko double pike takes on her during competition. When she lined up for a second vault, the crowd fell silent. Then Biles landed a Cheng -- a round-off back handspring (or Yurchenko) half onto the table with one and a half twists off -- and showed that she can do two of the hardest vaults in the sport.
She also improved her uneven bars score from Classics and finished third on the apparatus Friday.
"I think beam started off a little bit rough," she said after, "But that's kind of to be expected, you get your nerves out of the way, and after that it was pretty smooth sailing. I'm pretty happy with the overall meet today."
Biles continues to usher in a new standard in the sport and, if possible, looks better than she did a few weeks ago at U.S. Classics in Chicago, where she won the all-around in her first meet since taking two years away from competition after the Tokyo Games.
But Biles' dominance isn't the only story in San Jose. Friday also marked the first time two Olympic all-around champions -- Biles, who won the title in 2016, and 2020 champ Sunisa Lee -- competed at the same U.S. championships.
Want more? Here are three more takeaways from day one of competition.
Lee is focused on the future.
Like she did at Classics, Lee competed only two events -- beam and vault -- Friday at championships in order to preserve her strength and energy as she and her doctors continue to figure out the proper medication and diet to treat her kidney disease. She fell off beam as well as on vault and competed a lower-value full-twisting Yurchenko, although her coach Jess Graba said she has also been training a double.
"She wanted to throw it here, but there's no real reason to," Graba said. "For now, our focus will be beam and vault because we know we can do those relatively safely."
Although Lee is not eligible for an all-around title here, a strong showing Sunday will go a long way toward making a case for Lee to be named to the worlds team as a specialist. "Even if she went for just beam, she's going to score for the team," Graba said. "She's probably a medal contender [at worlds] on beam right now. I've made my position clear on that."
The college crew look improved since Classics, but not yet in top form.
After Wednesday's podium training, Tokyo floor champion Jade Carey said she's finally feeling confident in her routines as she rebuilds the endurance required to compete at the elite level. "[At Classics], I wasn't feeling totally prepared," Carey said. "You're not supposed to be fully ready at Classics, but I felt like I was a little bit behind."
Friday night, Carey competed in the all-around at an elite meet for the first time since last October's world championships. She debuted a new floor routine, which she said was choreographed by 1992 Olympian Betty Okino; U.S. national team strategic lead Alicia Sacramone, a 2008 Olympic silver medalist, chose the music. "I feel like it's my best one yet," Carey said of the routine, which featured dramatic music beneath difficult, creative tumbling. She landed low on a double tuck in her final pass, and was awarded a 13.350, which tied for sixth but is a score she can certainly improve.
The 23-year-old junior at Oregon State said the toughest transition back to elite has been piecing her routines back together. "This past year in college, I did a good job of keeping up with my elite skills," Carey said. "So it was about getting my endurance back. Bars has been toughest. It's double the length of my college bar routine and [bars] isn't the easiest for me. I have to work extra, but my work has been paying off."
Tokyo Olympian Jordan Chiles, who is deferring a year at UCLA to make a run at the Paris Olympics, looked much improved since Classics, and more confident as well, currently sitting in fifth in the all-around. Leanne Wong, who has been a standout at the University of Florida since traveling to Tokyo as an alternate, scored in the 14s on vault and bars and is fourth in the all-around.
The field of gymnasts vying for a spot on next summer's Olympic team is deep.
Had no former Olympians or Olympic alternates returned for the 2024 push, that sentiment would still be true. Shilese Jones, 21, and Skye Blakely, 18, missed the 2020 team and are head-down focused on making sure they aren't left behind next summer. The duo currently sits in second and third overall, respectively, after one day of competition.
Jones, the all-around and bars silver medalist at the 2022 world championships, hasn't competed in 10 months due to shoulder and foot injuries. Ahead of Friday's competition, she said her goal in San Jose is, "to grab that bars [gold] medal and make the national team again." She also said she wants to, "make the worlds team again, hopefully win team gold again and get an all-around spot. I'm also coming for number-one on bars at worlds."
She's well on her way. Jones' bars set was gorgeous. She stuck her double-front dismount and earned a 14.9, the highest score of the night. She is currently second in the all-around after day one with a 56.750 and was tied with Biles after two rotations.
And look no further than the six women from World Champions Center, the gym Biles' family owns, for a slew of potential Olympians. Zoe Miller, who's been injured for much of the past season, took the bars title at Classics a few weeks ago, but is still working back into shape after injuries limited her training the past year and she struggled Friday. Seventeen-year-old Joscelyn Roberson, who joined WCC after championships last year, is having a banner second season as a senior. She finished third in the all-around at Classics and is currently in eighth overall.