Simone Biles makes history with BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award

Simone Biles has become the youngest ever recipient of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.

The 24-year-old is the first person to receive the award in their twenties following a career that has seen her feted as one of the greatest gymnasts – if not the greatest – of all time.

Biles has been honoured at the end of a year in which she transformed perceptions of mental health problems in sport by withdrawing from five finals during the Olympics before coming back to win a bronze medal on the balance beam.

She also gave powerful testimony in an inquiry into the sexual abuse she and other gymnasts suffered at the hands of Larry Nassar.

Biles, who has recently hinted at retirement after winning 32 medals at the Olympics and World Championships, all but nine of them gold, said: “The BBC Sports Personality of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award is truly humbling.

“When I see those names who have been honoured before me, I can hardly believe it. This year wasn’t quite the year I was expecting as I had to take a step back from competition to recover from an invisible injury.

“This was the hardest decision of my life, but I chose to speak out to show mental health struggles are nothing to be ashamed of.

“I want to thank my teammates, my friends, and my family who gave me so much love and strength. I will carry on fighting for what I believe in and for sport to be a safer place for young people to grow and flourish.

“Thank you again for this truly wonderful honour and what it represents.”

Barbara Slater, director of BBC Sport and herself a former Olympic gymnast, added: “Simone’s passion and dedication to gymnastics has projected her and the sport to wider audiences across the world.

“What she has achieved on the biggest stages has confirmed her as one of the greatest of all time to represent the sport.

“To also have four gymnastics skills named after her shows how much of an influence she has had. It’s an honour to be awarding Simone with the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award.”

The award was announced ahead of Sunday’s Spoty ceremony, at which Emma Raducanu is the odds-on favourite for the main prize.

Victory would make Britain’s new tennis queen the first teenager to win it since Michael Owen in 1998 and the first woman to do so since Zara Phillips in 2006.