Back in business in early August, Biles has shown -- if some doubted it -- that she had lost none of her incredible level. She made a triumphant comeback to the United States, first by winning the US Classic, where she earned top marks on vault, floor and beam, and then by winning a record-breaking eighth all-around title in her home championship.

At 26, she is about to break another record in Antwerp by becoming the first American to participate in six Worlds, a sign of extraordinary longevity.

The greatest gymnast of all time returns to the Flemish city, where she opened her world counter ten years ago, winning four medals including two gold.

"Closing the loop"

"It's unbelievable, I feel like I've come full circle because the World Championships were here ten years ago and it was my very first Worlds," she said in an interview with the International Federation.

American gymnastics superstar Simone Biles on August 5, 2023 near Chicago © KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI / AFP/Archives

"It's very exciting, I'm meeting people who were present in 2013, which is completely crazy. And to come back in the same room, in the same atmosphere, I think it's going to be really fun and crazy."

These Worlds come just over nine months before the Paris Olympics, where the four-time Olympic champion said recently that she would "love" to win more titles. "This is the path I would like to follow," she told NBC television in early September, confirming for the first time since her return her goal of participating in the next Games.

The American signs for the moment an impressive comeback, two years after a difficult Tokyo Olympics. Arriving in Japan as the favorite thanks to his four titles won five years earlier in Rio, Biles had cracked in the light, withdrawing from most of the events.

She said she was fighting "twisties", temporary and brutal losses of any landmark in space, which expose athletes to a risk of injury when they land.

If she had left Japan with a silver medal in the team all-around and a bronze medal on the beam, her setbacks had especially contributed to highlight the subject of the mental health of athletes, long taboo.

"I think I need to take a little more care of myself and listen to my body," she told NBC. "Making sure I make time for the important things in my life rather than doing as before and always pushing."

"All the good things"

"Now I decided to go to therapy, make sure everything works so that I do my best in training and also be a good wife, a good daughter, a good friend. All the good stuff," Biles added.

Her training partner in Houston, France's Mélanie De Jesus Dos Santos, sums up her two-year hiatus: "She's made her little life, what!"

"To see her at such a level, it's quite impressive," Melanie "DJDS" told AFP. "But since I'm training with her now, I think it's less impressive than for other people. Because I see how it goes in training, I see when she succeeds, I see when she misses, I see when it's hard. So for me she's just a gymnast who works hard to achieve her goals."

In Belgium, Simone Biles could expand her monumental collection of 19 world titles. To further perpetuate her legacy in gymnastics, she will also try to include a fifth element in her name in the code of the International Federation, which regulates the marking of events.

© 2023 AFP