Simone Biles Makes History As Youngest Person To Receive Presidential Medal Of Freedom
The 25-year-old decorated gymnast said she was “honored” and “thankful” to receive the prestigious award.
Presidential honors are in order for the most decorated U.S. gymnast in history! Simone Biles is a living icon with 32 Olympic and World Championship medals to her name and can now add another prestigious honor to her resume. On Thursday, President Joe Biden presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Biles, making the 25-year-old the youngest person ever to receive the civilian honor.
“Today, she adds to her medal count,” Biden said during the ceremony as he introduced Biles. “I don't know how you're going to find room.”
Biles, the youngest person in history to be awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, was among 17 recipients, including soccer star Megan Rapinoe, Denzel Washington, and, posthumously, Steve Jobs and John McCain.
The White House released a statement saying all of the recipients “have overcome significant obstacles to achieve impressive accomplishments in the arts and sciences, dedicated their lives to advocating for the most vulnerable among us, and acted with bravery to drive change in their communities, and across the world, while blazing trails for generations to come.”
Biles was awarded for her contributions to U.S. gymnastics, as well as her advocacy work in foster care, sexual assault, and athletes' mental health, all of which she has personal experience. The Olympian is a former foster child and was among several victims who were sexually abused by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. Biles shared her account during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last September. And this past October she withdrew from the women's team gymnastics final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics due to mental health struggles.
“For so many years to go through everything that I've gone through, put on a front, I'm proud of myself,” she told The Today Show in October. “And I'm happy that I can be a leader for the survivors and bring courage to everybody speaking up, so I'm happy to be a voice for them.”
On Thursday, Biles posted about the historic moment on her Instagram page. “Medal of Freedom. I’m so honored & thankful to be recognized as a recipient by President Biden for this prestigious award. I still have no words. I’m shocked!”
Biles’ fiancé, NFL pro Jonathan Owens, also celebrated her accomplishment on social media. “Words can't explain how proud I am of you,” he wrote on his Instagram. “This has been such a surreal experience to watch you receive your Presidential Medal of Freedom, and be the youngest to ever receive one at that! You're one of the strongest people I know and are so deserving, I'm so blessed to be able to experience this with you. You motivate me more everyday to be the best version of myself. Such a inspiration, I love you so much babe.”
Kudos to Simone Biles for continuing to be the inspiring and amazing trailblazer she is!