On Thursday (December 9th), the magazine announced that Biles would be their 2021 Athlete of the Year. The most decorated athlete in the history of gymnastics was awarded the honor by uplifting the subject of mental health to the forefront of society. This was sparked by her decision to withdraw from events at the Tokyo Olympics held this summer despite being the heavy favorite to win, which was spurred by her experiencing the “twisties” during the team portion of the competition. Biles would wind up cheering her U.S. Women’s Gymnastics teammates to glory and went home with a silver from the team events and a bronze on the balance beam event. Contributors Alice Park and Sean Gregory wrote in the profile on her, “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.”
“I do believe everything happens for a reason, and there was a purpose,” she said in the profile. “Not only did I get to use my voice, but it was validated as well.”
The impact of Biles’ stance was lauded in the profile, with notable figures such as Colin Kaepernick, LeBron James, Allyson Felix, and Kevin Love applauding her for choosing her mental health and wellbeing. The article also details how the gymnast’s decision at the delayed Olympic Games had a profound effect on Black women and girls. Mental health professionals and young women spoke about Biles’ experience in Tokyo and also her courageous testimony against disgraced former team doctor Larry Nassar for his sexual abuse of her and other women gymnasts before Congress, inspiring them to seize more agency over their bodies and their mental health in their daily lives.