Olympic gymnasts Simone Biles and Sunisa Lee have both made Time magazine’s 2021 list of the 100 most influential people in the world, with the former earning a coveted spot on one of the issue’s seven covers.
The annual list was unveiled on Wednesday, the same day Biles gave a heartbreaking testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee about how the FBI failed her and others who were abused by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.
Biles, 24, was featured in the ‘Titans’ section of the Time 100 lineup, which included Apple CEO Tim Cook, mega-producer Shonda Rhimes, and NFL star Tom Brady.
Tennis star Serena Williams, 39, penned a moving tribute to the gymnast, who was the only survivor of Nassar’s abuse to represent Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics this summer.
Another win! Simone Biles covers the Time 100 issue after making the annual list of the world’s most influential people
Accomplished: Biles has a total of 32 Olympic and world championship medals, making her one of the most decorated American gymnasts of all time
As one of the most decorated American gymnasts of all time, Biles has a total of 32 Olympic and world championship medals.
‘Simone’s athletic achievements are seen once in a lifetime,’ Williams wrote. ‘What she embodies truly reflects the endless potential of Black women. I wish I had her to look up to when I was younger and trying to realize my dreams.’
The grand slam winner went on to note that the athlete’s ‘best work’ was what she was doing ‘outside of the gym,’ including her advocacy for mental health.
At the Tokyo Olympics, Biles withdrew from four out of five women’s gymnastics event finals to focus on her mental health, a difficult decision that was praised by many fellow athletes and supporters.
The gymnast said she was suffering from ‘the twisties,’ a mental block that causes gymnasts to feel like they are ‘lost in the air.’
She returned to competition in time for the balance beam final and ended up winning a bronze medal in addition to the silver that was on in the team all-around competition.
Honored: Tennis pro Serena Williams wrote a moving tribute about Biles for the issue, saying: ‘I wish I had her to look up to when I was younger’
Good sport: At the Tokyo Olympics, Biles withdrew from four out of five women’s gymnastics event finals to focus on her mental health, but she kept cheering her teammates on
Comeback: The gymnast returned to competition in time for the balance beam final and ended up winning a bronze medal
‘She is using her mature voice and platform to share her personal journey of self-love, respect, and acceptance — Simone is wise beyond her years,’ Williams wrote.
‘By living her truth so loudly and by championing mental health, she is setting new standards of beauty, strength and resilience, breaking down today’s image-obsessed stereotypes and encouraging others to do the same.
‘Simone is a shining example of what success looks like when you let go of what the world thinks and gather your strength from yourself … from your soul.’
Lee, meanwhile, was featured in the ‘Pioneers’ section of the Time 100 list, joining the ranks of singer Billie Eilish and Brother Vellies founder Aurora James.
The 18-year-old made history as the first Hmong American Olympian, and she did not disappoint at the Tokyo Olympics, where she won a gold medal in the individual all-around final.
Nastia Liukin, who won the all-around at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, wrote Lee’s profile for the Time 100 list, saying her performance in Tokyo ‘cements her legacy’ and also ‘symbolizes strength and fuels inspiration around the world.’
Difficult time: The list was unveiled on Wednesday, the same day Biles testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar Biles
Heartbreaking: Biles broke down in tears as she detailed how the FBI failed her and others who were sexually abused by the pedophile doctor
Support: Biles was joined by fellow star athletes and Nassar survivors McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, and Maggie Nichols (left to right), who all testified at the hearing on Capitol Hill
Shortly after taking home the gold, Lee started her freshman year at Auburn University, where she is slated to compete in the NCAA at the start of 2022 when the season kicks off.
The 18-year-old’s participation in the college league will see her make history again as the first-ever all-around gymnastics champion to compete in the NCAA.
But before that, she will be vying for the mirror ball trophy on the upcoming season of Dancing With the Stars when the new season of the show kicks off later this month
‘While her gold-medal win in this year’s all-around competition accomplishes a lifelong ambition, her journey as an individual outside of gymnastics is just beginning,’ Liukin said of Lee.
‘As the first Hmong American Olympian, Suni has an impact that extends far beyond any border or sport — it signifies representation.
‘This milestone has and will continue to inspire the Hmong community, but it also sends a simple yet powerful message to underrepresented people everywhere: Dream big because anything is possible.’
Biles and Lee both traded their leotards for couture when they made their Met Gala debuts on Monday. Biles made a splash in an 88-pound silver gown, while Lee dazzled in a gold two-piece.
Celebration: Biles’s teammate Sunisa Lee, 18, was also featured on the Time 100 list after taking home the gold in the individual all-around competition at the Olympics
Hero: Lee, who made history as the first Hmong American Olympian, was profiled by former gymnast Nastia Liukin, who said her Olympic performance ‘fuels inspiration around the world’
Just getting started: Shortly after taking home the gold, Lee started her freshman year at Auburn University, where she is slated to compete in the NCAA at the start of 2022
A few days later, Biles’s week took a more difficult turn when she joined fellow star athletes and Nassar survivors McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, and Aly Raisman on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
They each gave damning testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee for its hearing looking into the FBI’s botched probe into Nassar’s sexual abuse.
During her testimony, Biles said she was failed by the FBI, USA Gymnastics (USAG), and the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) in their handling of Nassar’s abuse.
She demanded ‘answers,’ saying she fears the same thing could happen to athletes in the future.
‘I sit before you today to raise my voice so that no little girl must endure what I, the athletes at this table and the countless others needlessly suffered under Nassar’s guise of medical treatment — which we continue to endure to today,’ she said.
‘We have been failed and we deserve answers. Nassar is where he belongs, but those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable.
‘If they are not, I am convinced that this will continue to happen to others across Olympic sports.’
Teammate: Biles and Lee were supportive of each other throughout the Olympics in Tokyo
Red carpet stars: Biles and Lee both traded their leotards for couture when they made their Met Gala debuts on Monday
Biles testified that, after reading the watchdog report, ‘it truly feels like the FBI turned a blind eye to us and went out of its way to protect USAG and USOPC.’
‘A message needs to be sent. If you allow a predator to harm children, the consequences will be swift and severe,’ she said.
Biles also testified about the toll the abuse had taken on her including most recently in the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer, where she pulled out of four final events for mental health reasons.
She told the committee how the delay to the Games due to COVID-19 meant she had ‘another 365 days’ of training in the gym and being reminded of the abuse.
‘As the lone competitor in the recent Tokyo games who was a survivor of this horror, I can assure you that the impacts of this man’s abuse are not ever over or forgotten,’ she said.
‘This meant I would be going to the gym, to training, to therapy, living daily among the reminders of this story for another 365 days.’
The athlete said she felt the ‘burden’ most when she traveled to Tokyo without the support of her family amid COVID-19 restrictions.