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AP Female Athlete of the Year, Simone Biles

On December 26, 2016 it has been announced by the Associated Press (AP) that the artistic gymnast from Texas/World Champions Centre, Simone Biles, is the Female Athlete of the Year after taking home four gold medals and one bronze medal from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Biles is currently the most decorated US gymnast in history with 19 World and Olympic medals and is considered the best gymnast of her generation.

Simone Biles Medals

For those who are unfamiliar with AP, it is an American multinational nonprofit news agency based in New York, which operated as a cooperative, unincorporated association. Their Athlete of the Year awards was started in the US in 1931. During that time women don’t have the same recognition as men, but AP offered a male and a female Athlete of the Year award to either a professional or amateur athlete.

Since 1921, this award has been voted on annually by a panel of AP sports editors from across the United States. A large number of winners are Americans, but non-Americans are also eligible for the honor and even won on a few occasions.

Why Simone Biles?

The decorated gymnast has won by just 11 points over the US Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky. Biles earned 31 votes from the total of 59 votes, with Ledecky taking 20. The other votes went to tennis player Serena Williams and basketball player Breanna Stewart, tied at 4 points.

It was such a close fight as Ledecky is also worthy. Also 19, she also won four gold medals and one silver medal at the Rio Olympics which included an incredibly rare sweep of the 200, 400 and 800 freestyle. Ledecky also helped the dominant American 4x200 free relay to win gold, and showed off her impressive range with a key split on the 4x100 free relay which won silver.

Biles, Ledecky, Phelps

However, Biles’ accomplishments in her Olympic debut led the US team to its second consecutive Olympic team gold medal. This is all from her individual gold medals in the women’s all-around, vault (USA’s first-ever women’s vault gold medal) and floor exercise, also a bronze on the balance beam. In Rio, she became the first American gymnast to win four golds at a single Games and one of only four women to accomplish the feat in Olympic history. The other three are Larissa Latynina (1956), Vera Caslavska (1968) and Ekaterina Szabo (1984). Biles is also the fourth female gymnast in Olympic history to capture back-to-back World and Olympic all-around titles and the first in 20 years, since Lilia Podkopyeva in 1996.

As if those mentioned above are not enough, the Texan gymnast is also the fourth US woman to collect five Olympic gymnastics medals at a single Games, joining Mary Lou Retton, Shannon Miller, and Nastia Liukin. The only US women to win an Olympic all-around title are Liukin, Retton, Gabby Douglas and Carly Patterson, but now Simone Biles is one of them too.

Biles’ victories gave the United States its fifth gold medal in the women’s all-around; the country’s fourth consecutive which no other country has ever accomplished at the Olympics in men’s or women’s gymnastics. Her historical performance has propelled the US women’s gymnastics team to a total of nine medals in Rio, the most won by any women’s team since the Soviet Union claimed 10 medals at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

“Simone’s Olympic performance cemented her place in gymnastics history,” said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics, “not only for her individual accomplishments, but also for joining with her teammates to deliver the performance of a lifetime. Simone has certainly raised the bar and is well-deserving of this recognition.”

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