Simone Biles has been named Time's 2021 Athlete of the Year, with the magazine recognising the gymnastics superstar's contribution to the sport and the wider conversation around mental health.
Biles, the most decorated athlete in gymnastics history, received the honour for propelling the conversation on mental health to the forefront of global discourse.
In withdrawing from events at the Tokyo Olympics she "made clear the importance of prioritising oneself and refusing to succumb to external expectations," Alice Park and Sean Gregory wrote for Time Magazine.
— TIME (@TIME) December 9, 2021
After Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open for her wellbeing and mental health, Biles "raised the volume" on the conversation given her status and platform, Time wrote.
"I do believe everything happens for a reason, and there was a purpose,” she said, via Time.
“Not only did I get to use my voice, but it was validated as well.”
Biles was expected to add five gold medals to her Olympic haul and perform yet another skill named after her on the international stage.
She came into the delayed Games as the face of American athletics, but during the team competition she experienced the "twisties" and lost herself in the air.
She withdrew, cheering her teammates on from the stands, and did not return until the final apparatus, where the 24-year-old claimed bronze in the balance beam to go with her silver in the team event.
Biles returned home a role model for every child or adult to put themselves and their mental health first, as the Time writers detailed in their year-end profile of the 24-year-old.
— TIME (@TIME) December 9, 2021
Piers Morgan slams Simone Biles award
Despite the fact Biles has been celebrated around the world, Piers Morgan slammed Time's award and insisted that she was essentially being rewarded for "quitting".
Morgan was one of the most outspoken critics of Biles' decision to pull out of Olympic competition to focus on her mental health, and the 56-year-old doubled down on his opposition to hr latest award.
“Ridiculous. We should celebrate winning in sport — not quitting,” Morgan tweeted.
“‘Athlete of the Year’ for someone who quit on her team so they lost, then recovered in time to compete in her solo event a few days later? Pur-lease.”
Ridiculous. We should celebrate winning in sport - not quitting. https://t.co/sYbaY6WtdX
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) December 9, 2021
Biles is the only survivor of former team doctor Larry Nassar's sexual abuse who is still competing and said it still weighed on her.
In the lead-up to the Tokyo Games she said she kept competing to put pressure on USA Gymnastics to initiate an investigation and change.
After the Olympics, Biles said the pressure should have led her to quit years ago when Nassar was constantly in the news.
Instead, she kept competing and told Time she thought she was OK heading into the Tokyo Games. But, unlike the two Olympics before, she was unable to bring family and couldn't hang out with teammates because of COVID-19 protocols. It left her largely alone with her thoughts and focus on gymnastics.
“We couldn’t hang out because of COVID-19 protocols,” she told Time, “so things you normally don’t think about because you don’t have time, now you have hours on end to think about—those doubts, those worries and those problems.”
In Biles' absence from competition, MyKayla Skinner won a surprising silver on vault and Sunisa Lee won gold in the all-around.
“What Simone did changed the way we view our well-being, 100%," Lee told Time.
"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.”
with Yahoo Sports US
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