Simone Biles has been named the Time’s Athlete of the Year, the same year she won one individual bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
It’s been a tumultuous year for Biles, who entered the summer Olympics expected to compete for the gold medal in each of the five individual events she was scheduled to participate in. She managed to only successfully compete in the balance beam.
“At that point, it was no longer about medaling, but about getting back out there,” Biles told Time. “I wanted to compete at the Olympics again and have that experience that I came for. I didn’t really care about the outcome. On that beam, it was for me.”
Biles entered the games with sky-high expectations. After winning four gold medals in the previous Olympics, Biles was expected by many to top her Rio 2016 numbers by becoming the first American female gymnast to win five golds at a single Games.
In her first appearance at the Tokyo Games — in the women’s all-around competition — Biles was forced to withdraw after landing awkwardly on her vault attempt. Her teammates went on without her, managing to take home the silver medal. Biles’ decision was widely questioned, with many feeling that she quit on her team. But Biles said her decision was made with the team in mind, choosing to withdraw in order to not jeopardize a medal for her teammates.
“I was like: I think the girls need to do the rest of the competition without me,” Biles said after the event. “They were like ‘I promise you’ll be fine, we watched you warm-up’. But I said ‘no, I know I am going to be fine but I can’t risk a medal for the team and I need to call it.”
“You usually don’t hear me say things like that because I usually persevere and push through things, but not to cost the team a medal. So they were like: OK, if Simone says this, we need to take it pretty serious. I had the correct people around me to do that,” she said.
Biles later said she was suffering from a bout of the “twisties,” a term known in gymnastics for when a gymnast loses herself while in the air.
“It’s so dangerous,” Biles said in September. “It’s basically life or death. It’s a miracle I landed on my feet. If that was any other person, they would have gone out on a stretcher. As soon as I landed that vault, I went and told my coach: ‘I cannot continue.’”
She withdrew from multiple individual competitions following the team all-around, including the individual all-around, in which USA Gymnastics said she would not compete “in order to focus on her mental health.”
“We all knew we had to continue not without her, but for her,” Sunisa Lee told TIME Magazine. “What Simone did changed the way we view our well-being, 100%. 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 humanized us.”
In September, Biles — along with Maggie Nichols, Aly Raisman, and McKayla Maroney — testified in front of Congress regarding details of the sexual abuse they say they suffered at the hands of former USA Gymnastics team doctor and convicted child molester Larry Nassar.
“I definitely do think it had an effect,” Biles told Time. “It’s a lot to put on one person. I feel like the guilt should be on them and should not be held over us. They should be feeling this [pain], not me.”
Biles’ selection as “Athlete of the Year” follows LeBron James’ selection in 2020.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to email@example.com.