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HomeGymnasticsAfter a stunning comeback, gymnastics star Simone Biles is named AP Female...

After a stunning comeback, gymnastics star Simone Biles is named AP Female Athlete of the Year for a third time.


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Simone Biles knew a lot of people were curious about how her first gymnastics competition in two years would go when she took the floor in a suburban Chicago arena in late July.

“Don’t worry, I thought that too,” Biles laughed.

Simone Biles
Simone Biles’ Best Moves

The most decorated gymnast in history realized she was back in her comfort zone by the end of one rotation. She won the title of national champion by the end of August. Once more. She had won the world championship by October, Once more.

With her historic comeback that included a sixth world all-around gold medal and a record eighth U.S. national championship, Biles became the sixth woman to win the AP title three times. In the voting conducted by a panel of sports media professionals, the 26-year-old seven-time Olympian was followed by Iowa basketball star Caitlin Clark and Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmati of the Spanish soccer team that won the World Cup.

And to think, she wasn’t sure what was in store for her that summer night in front of an enthusiastic crowd that was always there to cheer her on—a reaction she claims she wasn’t prepared for.

The last time Biles had thanked the judges, she was winning a bronze medal on the balance beam at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Her decision to withdraw from multiple finals due to “the twisties”—a.k.a. mid-air vertigo—had brought the sometimes awkward discussion about athletes’ mental health into the intense spotlight that the Games can only provide. These two weeks had been incredibly turbulent.

Even though she received almost universal praise for her bravery in prioritizing her safety, a cursory glance at her social media mentions revealed that not everyone shared this sentiment.

In the wake, she went into what she called a “protective shell” and took a two-year hiatus. She continued her therapy while hoping for a return at her convenience.

Nevertheless, self-doubt continued to seep in. This time, though, she accepted the anxiety’s presence, took a deep breath, and put on the kind of show that was uniquely hers rather than allowing it to chip away at her confidence.

2016 and 2019 were the two previous years that Biles won the AP award, which she now hardly remembers.

After her sensational Olympic performance in Rio de Janeiro, she was still a teenager. still residing with her parents at home. Still, her entire universe was focused on the spaceship-like gym her family had constructed in the suburbs of Houston.

She can’t help but shake her head a little as she considers it. Biles recalls believing that all she had time for was practice and, with any luck, getting her nails done.

Things have changed since then. She has taken care to ensure that her identity is no longer defined by the sport that she has redefined.

In the spring, Biles got married Jonathan Owens, a safety for the Green Bay Packers. She divides her time between working with corporate partners, attending Packers games when her schedule permits, and meticulously going over the specifics of the home she and her spouse are building.

Her evolution has been partially organic. It’s deliberate in part. She allowed herself to become overly fixated on the results of each turn, flip, twist, and practice in a field where attaining perfection is practically impossible for an extended period.

“When I was 19, having bad days felt like the end of the world,” the woman recalled. “It’s okay, it’s just gymnastics, and I’ll come back tomorrow and we’ll get it started again,” the person said.

When Biles says she’s attempting to adopt a more “one day at a time” mindset, she means it. This is difficult for someone who acknowledges that she tends to “best case/worst case” everything. It wasn’t until the end of spring that Biles truly committed to going back, after coach Cecile Landi casually mentioned over margaritas that perhaps it was time to share what the world had been seeing from Biles’s development.



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