Image via Simone Biles's Instagram
The day after Sports Illustrated crowned Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James as its Sportsperson of the Year, espnW awarded its Woman of the Year honors to 19-year-old U.S. gymnast and certified god-living-among-us Simone Biles.
Biles, who led America’s “Final Five” women’s gymnastics squad to team gold this summer in Brazil while winning individual gold in all-around, vault, and floor, is the most decorated American gymnast of all time. She also is the only 4 feet, 8 inch human with the gift of flight.
The Columbus, Ohio, native’s story lent itself to all the overwrought uplifting sports fanfare to which Olympics coverage is susceptible. Biles spent time in foster care and was adopted by her grandparents—the clumsy, insulting headlines wrote themselves—and she’s spent her career defending the value of her skill, which gymnastics traditionalists complain is unfairly privileged by a modern scoring system that weighs athleticism over “elegance,” “artistry,” and other coded language.
But her charisma and athletic magic obviously survived the haters. Since the summer games, Biles has safely nestled into our hearts, charming Ellen and Colbert; taking pictures next to incredibly tall people; and covering Ebony with power and grace. Biles may go down as the greatest gymnast ever, but she will definitely go down as one of the few great things about this godforsaken year.
The espnW IMPACT25 package is wonderful, featuring star-studded tributes to the year’s 24 other coolest people. Billie Jean King toasts Hillary Clinton; DeRay Mckesson honors the racial activism of the Minnesota Lynx; and a 15-year-old Seahawks fan beautifully recounts Jessie Graff’s historic run to become the first woman to complete Stage 1 on American Ninja Warrior.