Already in the history books as the most decorated US women’s gymnast ever, Biles adds one more to the medal count at just age 25. While awarding her the honour, U.S. President Joe Biden joked that he didn’t know where she was going to find room among her other 32 World Championship and Olympic medals.
According to the White House, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is presented to individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavours.
Biles is known for setting new standards of performance in gymnastics and is considered by many as the “GOAT” (Greatest of All Time) in her sport. Along with her 32 medals, she is also the first American woman to win seven national all-around titles and the first female gymnast to earn three consecutive World All-Around titles.
In the East Room of the White House, Biles was described as, “A former foster child who became a once-in-a-generation athlete, transforming her sport with artistry and degrees of difficulty that reimagine what is possible.”
Talking to reporters about the honour, Biles said, “It’s definitely at the top. Going to the Olympics and winning all those medals– I put in so many years of hard work– but to be recognised by the President and everything else is really special.”
In addition to her significant achievements in gymnastics, Biles is a prominent advocate for athletes’ mental health and safety, children in the foster care system, and victims of sexual abuse.
Last year, Biles testified before congress about failures in the FBI’s handling of the sexual abuse case against Larry Nassar, a former USA Gymnastics team doctor sentenced to prison in 2018 for sexually assaulting hundreds of women and girls.
Biles has been a strong voice among a group of other elite U.S. gymnasts speaking out for victims of sexual abuse. She has spoken publicly about the depression and anxiety she’s suffered as a result of Nassar’s abuse, making her a powerful mental health advocate and role model for many.
During the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, her mental health advocacy took the spotlight once more when Biles bravely chose to drop out of several competitions to focus on her wellbeing. While this decision brought on some tough criticism, she mostly received widespread praise for listening to her body and prioritising her mental health.
After receiving the Medal of Freedom, Biles alluded to the adversity herself and other gymnasts have overcome when she said, “I think it’s really exciting because it shines a good light on our sport because our sport is so fun, it’s so incredible. We’ve had a cloud over it the last couple of years, so to put some sunshine [on it] feels good.”
At the ceremony, Biden described Biles saying, “A trailblazer and a role model, when she stands on the podium, we see what she is– absolute courage, who turned personal pain into a greater purpose to stand up and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
According to womensagenda.com.au. Source of photo: internet