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Simone Biles Opens Olympic Season Looking Sharp In Pacific Rim Win

By Dave Dyer | April 10, 2016, 12:51 p.m. (ET)

Simone Biles smiles on the podium after winning the all-around competition at the 2016 Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships at Xfinity Arena on April 9, 2016 in Everett, Wash.

EVERETT, Wash. – The Road to Rio started off in fine fashion for Simone Biles.

The 10-time world championships gold medalist had no hiccups in the kickoff event on the path to her Olympic debut when she competed Saturday night at Pacific Rim Gymnastics Championships at the Xfinity Arena. Biles took the gold medal as the top all-around gymnast with a total score of 62.45. Teammate Aly Raisman earned the silver medal at 59.9, while Japan’s Nagi Kajita claimed the bronze with a score of 55.2. (Team USA’s Laurie Hernandez had the third-highest score at 59.8, but only two gymnasts per country could win medals.)

It was the first real competition for Biles since last year’s world championships, where she took the all-around, vault and balance beam titles. She’ll have more time to perfect her craft before the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games, including the U.S. Olympic Team Trials on July 8-10 in San Jose, California.

“It’s the longest I’ve ever gone without a competition,” Biles, 19, said. “It was a little nerve-wracking, but it was good for my body. I was at a good spot today. I know I still have things I need to work on, but I think I’m in a good spot.”

Biles led what turned out to be a dominant effort by the Americans. Team USA won the gold medal with a score of 243.2, a 24.1-point victory over silver medalist Canada (219.1). Australia took the bronze with a score of 217.85.

Easily receiving the loudest ovations of the evening, Biles started the night with her best routine of the evening, hitting a near-perfect floor routine, which has a Brazilian flare and was debuted for the first time this week, receiving a score of 16.05 in her first competition with the routine. Even though it was her best score of the evening, Biles believes it can get better.

“I thought it was pretty good,” Biles said of her new routine. “I’ll go look at the video, so we’ll see. There’s still things to improve on the floor routine, definitely.”

Biles was nearly as excellent on the vault. A slight stumble on her landing earned her a score of 15.8. But a second effort on another debut routine lifted the following score to 15.875.

Biles overcame another slight stumble at the beginning of her routine on the balance beam and turned it into one of her best events of the night. Thanks to a strong finish, she collected a score of 15.55.

“It was a really good beam routine,” Biles said. “I had a lot of confidence going into it. The rest of the team before me, they all hit, hit, hit (their routines) so solid. It kind of carried, it felt good.”

Biles was bested in one event — by her own teammates no less — when Ashton Locklear notched a 15.55 on the uneven bars. Brenna Dowell was second in the event with a 15.25, while Biles was third at 15.05.

As it turned out, the biggest rival to challenge Biles all evening was her own teammate in Raisman. Biles was almost bested by Raisman, a 2012 Olympic gold medalist in the team competition and floor exercise, whose floor routine was nearly as flawless, tallying a score of 15.6. Raisman also excelled on vault, picking up a score of 15.2.

“Taking two years off from competing, it’s been hard to get in the rhythm of being really calm and confident when I compete,” Raisman said. “I felt really good tonight. I’m excited, because we have (the U.S. Classic) in Connecticut in a couple of weeks and everything just starts going from there. I feel really good right now.”

The U.S. gymnasts have continued a strong trend throughout the weekend. Americans won the men’s gymnastics title and women’s trampoline title on Friday night.

The Pacific Rim Championships wrap up today with junior and senior individual event finals.

Notes: In women’s trampoline, Canada’s Samantha Smith took home the gold with a score of 54.24. Shaylee Dunavin (53.165) of the United States took the silver while Samantha Sendel (52.695) of Canada earned the bronze. Dmitrii Ushakov of Russia claimed the men’s title in the trampoline with a score of 59.97. Jeffrey Gluckstein (58.295) of the United States finished second and Dylan Schmidt (57.475) of New Zealand took bronze. A crowd of 7,284 attended the event.

Dave Dyer is a sportswriter based in Seattle. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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