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U.S. gymnast Simone Biles named Time magazine's 2021 Athlete of the Year

U.S. gymnast Simone Biles named Time magazine's 2021 Athlete of the Year
U.S. gymnast Simone Biles, show Aug. 3, 2021, won bronze and silver medals at the Summer Games in Tokyo. File Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Team USA gymnast Simone Biles was named Time magazine's 2021 Athlete of the Year on Thursday.

The 24-year-old Biles, widely considered one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, took a mental health break during the Summer Games in Tokyo before returning to compete in the balance beam finals, capturing bronze for her seventh career medal at the Olympics.

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Biles also won a silver medal in the team competition.

"At that point, it was no longer about medaling, but about getting back out there," Biles told Time. "I wanted to compete at the Olympics again and have that experience that I came for. I didn't really care about the outcome. On that beam, it was for me."

Biles' initial decision to step away during the Olympics came amid a bout of the "twisties," a phenomenon that can cause gymnasts to lose their sense of space and dimension while in midair.

Following Biles' decision to take a break, Suni Lee won the individual all-around gold medal for the U.S.

"We all knew we had to continue not without her, but for her," Lee told Time. "What Simone did changed the way we view our well-being, 100%. It showed us that we are more than the sport, that we are human beings who also can have days that are hard. It really humanized us."

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Earlier this year, Biles was named to Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people of 2021.

Biles hasn't ruled out a return for the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.

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