Dec 10, 2021 - Sports

Simone Biles named Time's 2021 Athlete of the Year

Simone Biles

Simone Biles accepts "The Original Award" onstage during the 2021 InStyle Awards at The Getty Center in November. Photo: Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for InStyle

Simone Biles, a four-time Olympic gold medalist and the world's most decorated gymnast, was named Time's 2021 Athlete of the Year, the magazine revealed on Thursday.

Why it matters: Biles is widely considered the greatest gymnast of all time and is one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. But outside of the gymnastics arena, she's also been an advocate for mental health and vocal in criticizing how institutions have failed to address sexual abuse of young athletes.

At the Tokyo Olympics in July, Biles, who was favored to win five gold medals, withdrew from five events, saying she had a case of "the twisties" and was pulling out to prioritize her mental well-being.

  • Biles ultimately left Tokyo with a silver medal in the team competition and a bronze for the balance beam, but continued to use her platform to advocate for mental health.
  • "Gymnastics isn't everything at the end of the day," Biles said. "At the end of the day, I have to do what's right for me and focus on my mental health, and not jeopardize my health and well-being."

In September, Biles joined former Team USA teammates to testify before Congress on the FBI's mishandling of sexual abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics Dr. Larry Nassar.

What they're saying: Several athletes have praised Biles' openness, with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick noting her "grace, eloquence and courage."

  • “Her influence extends far beyond the realm of sports and shows us that another world—a better world—is possible when we speak our truths with integrity and authenticity," Kaepernick told Time.
  • “Sacrifice gives back way more than it costs,” five-time NBA All-Star and mental health advocate Kevin Love said. “I do believe that it often takes one person to change the trajectory of a whole system.”
  • “To see her choose herself, we’re going to see the effects of that for the next generation," Allyson Felix, the most decorated woman in Olympic track and field history, told Time.
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