Simone Biles: World's most decorated gymnast named Time's 2021 Athlete of the Year

Simone Biles

Simone Biles has been named TIME's Athlete of the Year for 2021.

The Greatest Of All Time did not just add to her already impressive medal tally this year, but she became a leading voice in the fight for raising awareness around mental health.

Throughout a year that has taken its toll on the world, brave athletes like Biles have stepped into the spotlight to deliver raw truths about their emotional hardships.

Globally known sportsmen and women opened up and let supporters see them at their most vulnerable in order to break age-old stigmas and stress the importance of caring for people's mental wellbeing.

Naomi Osaka stunned the world with her brutal honesty at the French Open earlier this year — admitting she was withdrawing from the tournament due to mental health reasons. She has since announced she will be taking a break from tennis in order to prioritise her wellbeing.

Biles, who had been training for the Tokyo Olympics for five years, was gunning for yet another gold rush this summer. But after an error in her vault performance during the all-around team final, the gymnastics star shocked viewers across the world as she retired to the sidelines almost immediately.

Simone Biles

It was later revealed Biles had suffered from a case of 'the twisties' — a mental block gymnasts can sometimes experience while in the air, which warps all sense of spatial awareness.

The four-time Olympic champion withdrew from all but one of her scheduled events — the individual balance beam. She went on to take home bronze in the individual competition and silver with Team USA in the all-around team final.

Without shying away, without a filter, Biles admitted to struggling with her mental health and declared she would be taking time to focus on herself before returning to the arena in Tokyo.

Simone Biles

Backed by fellow athletes and professionals for her bravery and honesty, Biles' return was celebrated across the world as she clinched a third place finish.

"We all knew we had to continue not without her, but for her,” all-around gold medalist Sunisa Lee said of her US teammate. "What Simone did changed the way we view our well-being, 100 percent.

"It showed us that we are more than the sport, that we are human beings who also can have days that are hard. It really humanised us."

Simone Biles

Just one month after returning from the Games, Biles once again put herself and her vulnerability into the spotlight as she testified before the Senate against Larry Nassar.

Biles is the only survivor of the Nassar sexual abuse scandal still currently competing. She recently admitted she carried the "scars of this horrific abuse" with her in Tokyo, which she felt "could have" affected her performances.

"I was torn because things weren’t going the way I wanted," the 24-year-old said of her decision at the 2020 Games. "But looking back, I wouldn’t change it for anything."

Simone Biles

Biles has established herself as a voice for those who need speaking up for, and a beacon of hope for those struggling with their own mental health problems. Her strength has won the hearts of many and she remains one of the most awe-inspiring athletes of this generation through her astonishing achievements. 

The 19-time world champion has just completed a stunning showcase around the US in the Gold Over America Tour, and as far as Paris 2024 is concerned, she hasn't ruled out another stint on the Olympic stage.


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