The U.S. Olympic gymnast is the youngest person to ever be honored.
President Joe Biden honored U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles with the Presidential Medal of Freedom yesterday, and her smile during the ceremony said it all.
The athlete—who has seven Olympic medals under her belt—was honored not only for her talent in gymnastics, but her advocacy for athletes’ “mental health and safety, children in the foster care system, and victims of sexual assault,” according to the White House.
She is the youngest person to ever receive the honor.
After famously dropping out of part of the Tokyo Olympics last year because her mind and her body were “simply not in sync” and she wanted to work on her mental health, Biles dealt with much backlash. Regardless, she stuck to her gut, and this year at the Simmons Leadership Conference, she called the decision her “biggest win.”
“Walking away from the Olympic Games was a win in itself. I know a lot of people thought I failed because they expected me to go out with five or six medals, but walking out of it was my biggest win,” she said.
The president announced the 17 recipients of the 2022 Presidential Medal of Freedom on July 1, and on July 7, he presented several of this year’s honorees with their awards at the White House in Washington, D.C. Other honorees include soccer star Megan Rapinoe, actor Denzel Washington, and late cofounder of Apple Steve Jobs.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor, and Biden himself was awarded with it by then President Barack Obama.
“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 wrote in an Instagram post featuring a photo of her smiling widely while Biden placed the medal around her neck.
Biles’s fiancé, NFL star Jonathan Owens, attended the ceremony to cheer her on and praised her on his Instagram Story. “I’m so proud ❤️ You’re so amazing baby,” he wrote over a video of Biles being honored. He also shared a post with photos of the happy evening.
“Words can’t explain how proud i am of you, 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 ❤️,” the Houston Texans safety wrote.