[Update: 12-27-2016] Simone Biles has just been named Female Athlete of the Year by AP.
The vote was put together by U.S. editors and news directors and announced Monday. Columbus-borne Simone Biles received 31 out of 59 vote, cementing her place in the Olympics. U.S. Olympic swimmer 4x gold medalist Katie Ledecky placed second with 20 votes followed by two way tie for third with Tennis Goddess Serena Williams, who won Wimbledon for the seventh time and three-time AP women’s NCAA basketball Player of the Year Breanna Stewart.
Simone Biles is the fifth gymnast to win the honor. You can read about her historic run in Rio below.
Columbus-born Simone Biles Shines Brightest In Rio
by Grant Burkhardt
As the “hard work begins” for Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes in the more violent version of an adult summer camp, the world this week was treated to the finished, damn-near-perfect product of such ambition and dedication: Simone Biles.
If the Olympics exist to make new global stars every two years, it has done its job again. Biles, the 4-foot-9 gymnast – who was born in Columbus, (although she didn’t stay long before being put up for adoption by her troubled mother) – ran away with the vault competition Sunday, beating Russia’s silver medalist Maria Paseka by 0.71 points. By comparison, the rest of the seven jumpers in the final were separated by 0.44. After her final jump, when she’d all but won the gold, the 19-year-old shrugged, as if to say maybe she’d been more satisfied doing the vault with a shallow trampoline and a car.
Days before, in the four-event individual all-around, the crown jewel of Olympic gymnastics, Biles obliterated the field by 2.1 points. Again, we need some perspective here: If you add up the margins of victory for each of the all-around champions going back to 1980, they don’t reach 2.1 points. She’s already being talked about as perhaps the best gymnast of all-time. She gets so high in the air that she seems allergic to gravity.
That wide winning margin is partially due to a change in the rule system in 2006, which rewards extreme gymnastics skills, eliminated the perfect 10, and allowed for uncapped scoring.
“When we created Code of Points, we couldn’t even think that a girl like [Biles] will show up. She’s unique.” Nellie Kim, one of the creators of that system, said.
So you see, Simone Biles is a complete anomaly. Not even the “system” can account for her. She’s an outlier of the highest quality, and, for me, performances like hers are why I watch the Olympics. The thrill of general competition is nice, sure, as is the parade of countries during the opening ceremonies, and the endless jokes about Brazil’s water quality. But what sticks with me are the athletes who compete against the best and then destroy them. Michael Phelps. Katie Ledecky’s 800-meter swim on Friday. Wayde Van Niekerk’s 400-meter run on Sunday. Usain Bolt, so goddamn far ahead in the 100 meters in 2008 that he pimped the last 20 meters of that race and still set the world record.
Unfortunately, gymnastics is perhaps the sport with the shortest window for success. Most gymnasts only go to one Olympics at their peak, so we might not see Biles again on this particular stage. She might not mind, as she’s already on the Pantheon of history’s most dominant Olympians, but that’s great news for everyone else.