Earlier in 2019, legend, icon, and star Simone Biles became the first woman to ever land a triple-double in competition. It was a moment that, as the people of cyberspace are wont to claim, broke the internet. USA Today went so far as to quantify the height of her leap, reporting that Biles could have cleared an SUV should she have suddenly found one to be beneath her on the mat. I for one, once twisted my ankle trying to hop over a sidewalk ledge.
It is no surprise then that Biles, who holds the record for most world championship medals ever to be held by a gymnast, has been named the 2019 Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press. The article bestowing her with this title opens with a definition of “Simone Things,” which are, AP reports, “the casual ease with which Simone Biles seems to soar through her sport and her life.”
It’s worth noting that, obviously, the ease with which she soars through the air is a result of extremely hard work, tireless hours of dedication, and surviving a near constant analysis of her every public move. It’s anything but casual. In that same vein, when well-intentioned internet commenters said her landing a triple-double was akin to magic, supporters were quick to point out that magic has little to do with it.
When it comes to soaring through her life, it’s also safe to say that here Biles is doing anything but. Rather than soar, she’s taking careful, purposeful steps in advocating for herself and for other women. Before the internet stopped to watch her triple-double, it stopped to listen to her as she reprimanded USA Gymnastics for not protecting her and other women from Larry Nassar, the convicted child molester and former doctor to the USA Gymnastics national team. “You literally had one job and you couldn’t protect us,” Biles said in an on camera interview.
For the 2019 AP title Biles comes ahead of soccer player Megan Rapinoe in second, skier Mikaela Schiffrin in third, and basketball player Elena Delle Donne in fourth. Biles is the first gymnast to win the title twice, and the first to win the title in a non-Olympic year.
With no disrespect to L.A. Clippers player Kawhi Leonard who was named 2019 AP Male Athlete of the Year, maybe it’s time AP retires the gendered identifiers and just gives Biles the title of Greatest Athlete overall.