Top Sports Mental Health Speaker Simone Biles Named Time Athlete of the Year

Top sports mental health speaker Simone Biles has been named Time Athlete of the Year for 2021. Biles, the most decorated gymnast in history, was recognized for bringing the topic of mental health to the forefront of the conversation.


She "made clear the importance of prioritizing oneself and refusing to succumb to external expectations" by withdrawing from the competitions at the Tokyo Olympics, Alice Park and Sean Gregory wrote for Time Magazine.


Given her position and platform, Biles "raised the volume" on the topic after Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open for her well-being and mental health. Biles was projected to add five more gold medals to her collection at the Olympics, as well as perform a new skill named after her on the international stage.


She arrived at the postponed Games as the face of U.S. athletics, but she got the "twisties" and lost herself in the air during the team competition. Biles then withdrew from the competition, cheering on her teammates from the stands, and did not return until the balance beam, the final event.


Biles took home a record-tying seven medals in Tokyo, including a silver in the team event and a bronze on the balance beam. As the Time writers reveal in their year-end feature of the 24-year-old, she went home as a role model for every child or adult to put themselves and their mental health first.


Biles is the one of many survivors of sexual abuse by former team doctor Larry Nassar and she said has said that it still affects her. She said she kept participating in the lead-up to the Games to put pressure on USA Gymnastics to launch an investigation and make changes. She also stated after the Olympics that the pressure should have prompted her to quit years ago when Nassar was in the news.


Instead, she continued to compete and told Time that she felt okay heading into the Tokyo Olympics. However, unlike the previous two Olympics, she was unable to bring relatives or socialize with teammates due to COVID-19 procedures. MyKayla Skinner won a surprising silver on vault in Biles' absence, and Suni Lee won gold in the all-around.


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