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Simone Biles wins third AP Female Athlete of the Year award

Simone Biles competed in her first gymnastics event since the 2021 Tokyo Olympics over the summer. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Simone Biles has been named the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year for the third time.

She’s just the sixth athlete to win the award three times, having previously won the honor in 2016 and 2019. The accolade caps off what has been a year of triumphant return for Biles, who made her comeback in competitive gymnastics in late July. It was her first competition in two years. By the end of August, she was a national champion. By October, she was a world champion.

Biles returned doing moves that nobody else has done. And she won a sixth all-around title at the World Gymnastics Championships to become the most decorated gymnast in the history of the sport. Her 34 Olympic or world championship medals surpassed the previous record of 33 set by Belarusian men’s gymnast Vitaly Scherbo.

Biles told the AP that her approach to getting back was taking it one day at a time. And she’s approaching gymnastics differently – it’s no longer the end of the world if she has a bad day.

“Whenever I was 19, it was the end of the world if I had bad days,” she said. “Now I’m like, ’It’s OK, it’s just gymnastics and I’ll come back tomorrow and we’ll get it started again.’”

Biles has admitted that she didn’t think she would ever compete again. It wasn’t until the spring that her coach Cecile Landi suggested that she get back to competing at a high level.

“I didn’t know what I was expecting,” Biles continued, crediting the people she has surrounded herself with for believing in her even when she was still trying to. “People were like, ‘No, we’ve seen you in training, this is what was supposed to happen.’”

She also got married this year to the Green Bay Packers’ Jonathan Owens, which she says was her best moment of 2023.

“At the end of the day I did worlds and all that stuff, but I did get married, I got to support him,” she said. “It’s just like, it’s kind of nice that gymnastics isn’t the main revolving piece.”