Simone Biles is one of USA TODAY’s “Women of the Year,” a continuation of the Women of the Century 2020 project, which commemorated the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States.
She became the most successful female gymnast of all time thanks to her physical strength and athleticism. She was mocked and judged by those who hadn’t been in her shoes when she withdrew from some events during the Tokyo Olympics due to mental health issues.
The 25-year-old was able to send a powerful message to other women all over the world: It’s okay for you to be vulnerable. Emotional exhaustion is perfectly acceptable. Self-care is perfectly acceptable.
A newly-engaged Biles told USA Today, “It was a crazy year,” she admitted. “However, I believe that bringing mental health to the forefront was a significant achievement. That moment, I had no idea what a big deal it was going to be. Since then, I’ve come to terms with everything that has occurred. Even so, it still astounds me that it wasn’t discussed as much as it is now, that we aren’t open about it, and that it isn’t perceived as an injury in the same way as it is now. So I’m glad we were able to have that conversation and now we can discuss it.”
However, she admits that the backlash on social media was difficult, but it is clear that she was able to help women from Kansas to Michigan to Florida to California to New York – and many more. As a gymnast, it has been rewarding to lift up those who feel connected to her; as a champion, it has been life-changing to lift up those who needed to be heard.