One thing’s for sure: Time magazine always understands the assignment.
In a year in which both the coronavirus and mental health had a significant impact on the wonderful world of sports, the prestigious publication has made the perfect choice for its 2021 Time Athlete of the Year—and that would be the greatest gymnast of all time, Simone Biles.
From Time Magazine:
At a time when anxiety and depression rates are skyrocketing—the CDC reports a 50% rise in suicide attempts by teenage girls during the pandemic—and many people are struggling with what they owe themselves vs. what others demand of them, Biles made clear the importance of prioritizing oneself and refusing to succumb to external expectations. With the eyes of the world upon her, she took the extraordinary step of saying, That’s enough. I’m enough.
As we previously reported at The Root, the seven-time Olympic medalist entered the Tokyo Olympics as the overwhelming favorite in every event she was set to participate in. Sadly, she was forced to withdraw from nearly all of them due to a serious case of “the twisties” before she felt comfortable enough to compete in the balance beam competition and earn the bronze medal.
As such, her inability to compete sparked much-needed discussions about the importance of self-preservation and mental health in professional sports.
“Her remarkable position as the world’s greatest gymnast ever to inspire a long-overdue global conversation on mental health,” NFL quarterback turned activist Colin Kaepernick told Time. “Her influence extends far beyond the realm of sports and shows us that another world—a better world—is possible when we speak our truths with integrity and authenticity.”
In September, the 24-year-old and her fellow U.S. gymnasts also courageously testified before Congress against disgraced former U.S. Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who’s currently serving up to 175 years in prison for the sexual abuse he inflicted upon hundreds of girls and women who were placed in his care.
“I don’t want another young gymnast, Olympic athlete or any individual to experience the horror that I and hundreds of others have endured—before, during and continuing to this day in the wake of the Larry Nassar abuse,” Biles told Congress, per the Washington Post. “To be clear, I blame Larry Nassar, and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse.”
Biles’ strength and resilience should serve as an inspiration to us all. And fellow Olympian Allyson Felix, who became the most decorated woman in Olympic track and field history back in August, counts herself among Biles’ biggest admirers.
“To see her choose herself, we’re going to see the effects of that for the next generation,” Felix told Time. “When thinking about role models for [my daughter] Cammy, wow, here is someone showing you can choose your mental health over what the world says is the most important thing.”
Congrats, Simone! You deserve.