Simone Biles Named as TIME’s Athlete of the Year

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TIME magazine has named Simone Biles as their athlete of the year. After everything she’s done, not only for women in sport but all athletes, it’s understandable.

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The twenty-four-year-old gymnast gives her all in everything she does. So there is no surprise that her decision to pull out of the Olympic team final earlier this year, and withdraw from 3 more events, shocked the nation…

At the time she admitted she had “to focus on [her] mental health,” which is why she chose to step down after getting a case of the twisties.

Little did she know, that this decision would have a huge impact on how mental health is discussed in professional sports settings.

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Her teammate, Sunisa Lee, who went on the win gold, said: “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.”

And many other athletes were given the courage to speak out after Biles made it clear how important it is to prioritize mental health over others’ expectations.

“I do believe everything happens for a reason, and there was a purpose. Not only did I get to use my voice, but it was validated as well,” she said in a TIME interview not long after the event.

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And although she received many comments from critics labelling her a “quitter,” she didn’t let the negative talk get the better of her…

“If I were going to quit, I had other opportunities to quit,” she said. “There is so much I’ve gone through in this sport, and I should have quit over all that—not at the Olympics. It makes no sense.”

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Biles has faced extreme trials and tribulations in her sport. One of which is the the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of Larry Nassar.

Along with this and the stresses of COVID-19 affecting training, as well as being unable to see her family while she was in Tokyo, the pressure built up and understandably got too much to bear.

However, after getting support from Team USA’s mental-health experts, post vault scare, she gallantly came back to compete in the balance beam final, admitting: “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.”

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Before any of this took place, Biles had Maya Angelou’s And still I rise tattooed as “a reminder and a tribute to everything I had been through, and that I always come out on top,” she says.

Despite the Olympics not turning out the way she expected, she’s currently in therapy and working on herself and her mental health. Reminiscing on the past several months, she said: “looking back, I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

It’s no surprise TIME made her their athlete of the year.

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