INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 26, 2016 – 2016 Olympic all-around champion Simone Biles of Spring, Texas/World Champions Centre, who brought home four gold and one bronze medal from the 2016 Olympic Games, was named the Associated Press’ 2016 Female Athlete of the Year. The most decorated U.S. gymnast in history with 19 World and Olympic medals, Biles is widely considered the best gymnast of her generation.
“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.”
In her Olympic debut, Biles led the U.S. team to its second consecutive Olympic team gold medal and went on to win individual gold medals in the women’s all-around, vault and floor exercise. She added a fifth medal with her bronze on 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, joining Larissa Latynina (1956), Vera Caslavska (1968) and Ekaterina Szabo (1984). A three-time World all-around champion (2013-15), Biles became the fourth female gymnast in Olympic history to capture back-to-back World and Olympic all-around titles and the first since Lilia Podkopayeva in 1996.
Biles joins Mary Lou Retton, Shannon Miller and Nastia Liukin as the only U.S. women to collect five Olympic gymnastics medals at a single Games. She joins Gabby Douglas (2012), Liukin (2008), Carly Patterson (2004), and Retton (1984) as the only U.S. women to win an Olympic all-around title. Biles’ victory gave the United States a fourth consecutive gold medal in the women’s all-around, a feat no other country has accomplished at the Olympics in men’s or women’s gymnastics, and its fifth overall. She also won the USA’s first-ever women’s vault gold medal. Her historic performance propelled the U.S. 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.
Biles punched her ticket to Rio by clinching the all-around title at the 2016 Olympic Team Trials. In June at the 2016 P&G Championships, she became the first woman since 1974 to win four-straight senior women’s all-around crowns. Biles also claimed three individual event titles: vault, balance beam and floor exercise. The four-time Olympic champion has won every all-around competition she has entered since the 2013 P&G Championships.
A panel of AP sports editors from around the United States votes on the award, which has been given annually since 1931. Biles received 31 votes out of a possible 59 votes. U.S. Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky was second with 20 votes, and Serena Williams (tennis) and Breanna Stewart (basketball) tied for third with four votes each. Biles is the fifth gymnast, male or female, to make the list, joining Olga Korbut (1972), Nadia Comaneci (1976), Mary Lou Retton (1984) and Gabby Douglas (2012).