Gymnastics icon Simone Biles has been honoured with the BBC Sports Personality of the Year’s Lifetime Achievement award.
The American is tied as the most decorated gymnast of all time, having won seven medals at the Olympics and 25 at the World Championships.
This year, Biles won a silver medal as well as a bronze at Tokyo 2020 and also received widespread praise for opening up on her mental health struggles.
The 24-year-old withdrew from five events at this year’s Games, after admitting to struggling with a problem known as the “twisties” –– a dangerous mental block where gymnasts temporarily lose air balance awareness.
Biles has also been subject to praise for her bravery in speaking out against former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, who is now serving a life sentence in jail for sexually abusing at least 265 young women.
Hundreds of female gymnasts who were abused by Nassar reached a £288m ($380m) settlement with the US Olympic and Paralympic committee earlier this week.
Biles described winning the award as an “unbelievable honour” and “truly humbling.”
“When I see those names who have been honoured before me, I can hardly believe it,” she stressed.
“2021 wasn’t the year I was expecting. This summer, I had to take a step back from competition to recover from an invisible injury.
“That was the hardest decision of my life, but I chose to speak out to show mental health struggles are nothing to be ashamed of.
“I was expecting some criticism at first, but what happened was the complete opposite. The support and encouragement I received was overwhelming, and it fills my heart to think of those positive words.
“I want to take this moment to thank my teammates, my friends, and my family, who gave me – and continue to give me – so much love and strength.
“I’m so grateful to everyone in the UK who sent such supportive and loving messages to me at that time.
“What I will always treasure, more than any medal, is hearing how I may have helped someone feel a little better.
“I will carry on fighting for what I believe in, for sport to be a safer place for young people to grow and flourish, and I will continue to speak up about mental health.”
Biles is widely considered one of the greatest gymnasts ever. The American has more World Championship medals than anyone else and also has the most World all-around titles with five.
So great has been Biles’ dominance in recent times, that a number of moves have been named after her because no other gymnast has ever attempted them.
These moves include a floor exercise routine, balance beam dismount and a twist on the vault –– all named The Biles. Another floor move, consisting of a “triple-double” with three twists and two flips was later named the Biles II.
The four-time Olympic gold medallist has hinted she may try and compete in the next Games at Paris 2024.
By then, Biles will be 27 years old –– an age which would normally be considered too old for an elite gymnast.
But the gymnastics trailblazer claims she is keeping “the door open” to the possibility of taking part in a third Olympics. And if anyone can defy expectations and prove people wrong, it’s Biles.