Young Simone Biles Stands Tall With Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Bill Russell and Other Legends After Receiving a Rarely Given Highest Civilian Honor

Published 08/08/2022, 2:59 PM EDT
LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 23: Simone Biles of the USA looks to the crowd ahead of her performance on floor during the Superstars of Gymnastics at The O2 Arena on March 23, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Often hailed as the greatest gymnast of all time, Simone Biles has wowed the public on and off the gymnastics mat. Her dominating skills in the gymnasium that make her practically unbeatable earned her 32 Olympic and World Championship medals.

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Outside the competition arena, Biles has been an advocate for mental health issues, kids living in the foster care system, and victims of sexual assault. Her outstanding contribution to society made her a prime candidate for an award of incredible prestige.

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Simone Biles stands among a league of greats

There are many ways to award athletes for their accomplishments, medals, trophies, sporting awards, the list goes on. But very few of the greats stand in front of the United States President and receive the nation’s highest civilian honor. 

On 7th July 2022, Simone Biles received the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House, meeting US President Joe Biden in the flesh. Along with Biles, USWNT star Megan Rapinoe became one of the only six female athletes to receive the honor. At 25 years old, Biles remains the youngest recipient in history. 

She accompanies some of the greatest athletes of the country on the list of those granted the distinction. World Golf Hall of Famer Tiger Woods became an awardee of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019. The greatest NBA player in history, Michael Jordan, joined the list in 2016, receiving his medal from former president Barack Obama. 

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Similarly, Celtics player Bill Russell, whose legacy in the sport and contribution to civil rights will forever go down in history, was awarded in 2011. Also on the list stands boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, accepting his medal from George W. Bush in 2005. Moreover, Tennis legend Billie Jean King was similarly honored in 2009.

Biles’ reaction to the incredible accomplishment

The most decorated gymnast in World Championship history, Simone Biles, flew to Washington, D.C. in July. With her family and fiance, NFL safety Jonathan Owens, she celebrated one of her biggest wins. Her withdrawal from the Tokyo Olympics led to a massive backlash from the public. Still, she remained unshakable in her decision. 

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A post shared by Simone Biles (@simonebiles)

Biles has championed mental health, spoken out against the abuse of athletes, and worked for the children in the foster care system. She set an example for all her young admirers. After she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she talked to the press, expressing her feelings on the matter.

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“Hearing that I was the youngest was a huge honor,” Biles told reporters outside the White House. “It’s kind of scary because it is the best award you can receive in your whole life, so now it’s kind of scary, like, ‘Oh, what do I do now?’ But it’s a huge honor.”

WATCH THIS STORY: Everything You Need To Know About Simone Biles and Jonathan Owens’ Big Wedding

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Mansi Jain

377 articles

Mansi Jain is a US Sports author for EssentiallySports. She has a Bachelor's degree in Multimedia and Mass Communication from the University of Delhi and has also previously interned for HT Media. She is always one mention of Yuzuru Hanyu away from delivering an hour-long speech about the athlete's legacy.

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