Gymnastics Greatest of All Time Simone Biles added another medal to her count: The Texas superstar received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Joe Biden at the White House on July 7.
She was one of 17 Americans to receive the award, considered the highest civilian honor in the nation.
Joining Biles on the prestigious list was fellow Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion Megan Rapinoe. Other distinguished recipients included Steve Jobs, Senator John McCain (accepted by his widow, Cindy McCain), and Denzel Washington (who had tested positive for COVID and was unable to attend in person).
The award is given to “individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors,” noted a release from the White House ahead of the ceremony. Biden, in the statement, added that the 17 recipients also “demonstrate the power of possibilities and embody the soul of the nation — hard work, perseverance, and faith.”
At age 25, Biles became the youngest person ever to receive the Medal of Freedom, Biden noted at the ceremony. (She also shatters Tiger Woods’ record as the youngest athlete to receive the honor. He was 43 when he received the award in 2019.)
Medals, of course, are nothing new to Biles, given that the most decorated American gymnast in history boasts 32 of the Olympic and world varieties.
"Today, she adds to her medal count of 32," Biden said, turning to her and joking, "I don't know where you're gonna find room."
Before awarding her medal, Biden said of Biles, "Everyone stops everything every time she's on camera just to watch. When we see her compete, we see unmatched power and determination, grace, and daring. A trailblazer and a role model, when she stands on the podium, we see what she is — absolute courage, who turned personal pain into greater purpose to stand up and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves."
Outside the competitive arena, the Houston-area resident has been a fierce advocate for mental health and sexual abuse victims. After winning a record seventh U.S. national championship in Fort Worth in June 2021, she earned a bronze medal on balance beam despite her Summer Olympics struggle with "the twisties" and headlined a "Gold Over America Tour" with her Olympic teammates. She also launched a female-empowering clothing line with athleisure band Athleta.
Before Biden draped and clasped the Presidential Medal of Freedom around Biles' neck, a military aide read a citation that said:
Overcoming great odds, Simone Biles is the most decorated American gymnast in history. A former foster child who became a once-in-a-generation athlete, transforming her sport with artistry and degrees of difficulty that we imagine what is possible. With absolute courage and honesty, she expands the legacy of our greatest champions who challenge the powerful and speak up for justice and the wellness of body and mind. Leaning on faith in God, and family, Simone Biles is an inspiring symbol of strength, grace, and pride in those three letters: U.S.A.
Stephanie Allmon Merry contributed to this story.