Simone Biles turned a lot of heads in yesterday’s podium training for the Secret U.S. Classic with her incredible double layout with a half turn – not to be confused with a laid out double Arabian, in which the half turn occurs early in the skill and is supposed to show a laid out double front (performed by several men as well as Diane dos Santos of Brazil).

I actually really like the way Simone does it because she still shows a beautiful double layout before tossing in an effortless half turn at the end – very difficult to be patient enough to do that.

Some have already been naming Biles as the first gymnast to perform this skill (assuming she competes it in tonight’s competition).  However, there was a relatively unknown gymnast who competed this skill back in 2005 – along with another very unique pass and an overall tumbling repertoire that was way ahead of its time.

That second pass was a 1 ½ twisting double back!  And to this day I can’t think of too many gymnasts – if any – who have competed a front layout to double front as a DISMOUNT!  Wow.  We didn’t hear too much from London after that, but I wanted to credit her as having competed this difficult and innovative skill nearly a full decade ago.

Much of the buzz around this competition has surrounded McKayla Maroney’s return to competition for the first time since the Olympic Games.  It’s so awesome to see her right back in the thick of things and looking just as good as she did in London – very smart of her to go ahead and get back into competition shape just one year out, as opposed to waiting until later in the cycle to make a comeback.  We’ve seen time and time again that this simply doesn’t work.  I definitely believe that Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber, and Aly Raisman can still make successful comebacks next year, but waiting any longer than that has proven to be excessively difficult.

McKayla’s vaults look as good as ever, and it will be fascinating to see if another gymnast like Simone Biles or Mykayla Skinner could challenge her scores on vault – as well as a spot on the world team.  Skinner’s Cheng is one of the best ever done – at least the most effortless-appearing one I’ve seen.  And Biles’ Amanar and laid out Podkopayeva are both tremendous.  Biles could very well be going as an all-arounder to worlds anyway, so having her as a vault specialist as well could be very convenient for a four-woman squad.

I’m very interested to see what tumbling passes McKayla throws in this competition – we’ve seen her easily toss a brand new double layout in training at the ranch, along with an Arabian double front, a skill she used to compete.  Will the 3 ½ twist still be in there?  And let’s hope she’s taken out the 1 ½ twist to double back that always seemed so unnecessary and just invited huge boundary deductions. Floor could be very important for her at establishing a spot on the world team – especially if a couple others end up nearly matching her scores on vault. In all honesty, though, I’d have a hard time seeing Martha Karolyi deny Maroney the chance to defend her world title on vault – and salvage what she lost in London – as long as she continues to look the way she does in training. If I had to guess, I think Maroney will likely be on this world team.

Kyla Ross has looked quite good from what I’ve seen from her in training, but I’d have to say that if Simone Biles hits four clean routines she should have a huge advantage in difficulty – not only over Kyla but over the rest of the field.  In addition to Simone’s Amanar on vault (0.5 higher in value than Kyla’s DTY), she should bring a much higher D-score on floor and even on beam than Kyla, and a strong bars D-score that’s only a few tenths behind Kyla.  But Kyla brings experience and her trademark steadiness on beam, and this event could likely be the one that makes or breaks Simone’s chances to win this meet. We saw her lose her chance to win the American Cup with a fall on beam earlier this year, and she’ll likely need to stay on this event to hold off the 2012 Olympian.

Aside from Maroney, Ross, Biles, and Skinner, the other notable names in the meet include Brenna Dowell and Lexie Priessman – both of whom could easily capitalize on any mistakes from Biles or Ross – and also Kennedy Baker of Texas Dreams.

But there are some other names to watch in this competition that you may not have heard of yet – some who are repeat seniors and some who are brand new.  In preparation for tonight’s meet, I wanted to leave you with a few highlight routines to look out for:

I’ll be back with more thoughts after the meet…Enjoy tonight’s competition!