Simone Biles wins on and off the mat. On Thursday, Time Magazine announced that the gymnast is its 2021 Athlete of the Year.
Biles, who is the most decorated athlete in gymnastics history, received the title for propelling the conversation on mental health.
Biles withdrew from the Tokyo Olympic events and she “made clear the importance of prioritizing oneself and refusing to succumb to external expectations,” Alice Park and Sean Gregory wrote for Time Magazine.
After tennis star Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open for similar reasons surrounding her well-being and mental health, Biles helped “raise the volume” on the subject through her own status and platform, Time wrote.
Despite the prediction that Biles would add five gold medals to her list of Olympic achievements, she withdrew from the games. Biles experienced the “twisties” during the team competition and lost herself while in the air. She later withdrew, but remained cheering her teammates on from the stands, and did not return until the final competition, the balance beam.
She earned a silver medal in the team event and bronze on the beam, a record-tying seven medals for most by a U.S. gymnast, Yahoo reported.
The 24-year-old star athlete who is also the only survivor of former team doctor Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse went home as a role model for every child or adult who has put themselves and their mental health first.
Biles told Time she thought she was OK going into the Tokyo Games. But, unlike the two games before, she couldn’t bring family or hang out with teammates because of COVID-19 protocols, which left her alone with her thoughts and focus on gymnastics.