Simone Biles and Megan Rapinoe named as recipients of Presidential Medal of Freedom

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President Biden announces Simone Biles and Megan Rapinoe as recipients of Presidential Medal of Freedom  (Getty)
President Biden announces Simone Biles and Megan Rapinoe as recipients of Presidential Medal of Freedom (Getty)

Simone Biles and Megan Rapinoe have been named recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

On Friday, President Joe Biden announced the names of 17 recipients who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honour.

The awards, which recognise 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 endeavours,” according to the White House, will be presented at the executive mansion on 7 July 2022.

Biles, the most decorated American gymnast in history, was the first to be named on President Biden’s list, with the White House recognising the Olympian’s advocacy for mental health and safety awareness among fellow athletes, as well as her dedication to highlighting and raising awareness of children in the foster care system, and victims of sexual assault.

The athlete, who has won a combined 32 Olympic and World Championship medals, has been outspoken about her own mental health struggles, and now helps spread awareness of the topic as the chief impact officer for mental health app Cerebral.

Last year, Biles also testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the FBI’s handling of sexual abuse claims against former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, joining fellow athletes McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman.

Following the testimony, Biles said she was “happy” that she could “be a leader for the survivors and bring courage to everybody speaking up”.

President Biden also announced Rapinoe as a recipient of the award on Friday. According to the White House, the honour recognises the achievements of the Olympic gold medallist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion, as well as her advocacy for gender pay equality, racial justice, and LGBTQ rights.

Rapinoe, who captains OL Reign in the National Women’s Soccer League, was among the members of the US women’s national team who filed a gender discrimination class-action equal pay lawsuit against US Soccer in 2019. The lawsuit was settled in February, when US Soccer agreed to a $24m settlement.

Of the achievement, Rapinoe told Good Morning America that she was “proud” of the hard work that she and her teammates put in to fighting the injustice.

“I’m just so proud, to be honest. I’m so proud of all of the hard work that all of us did to get us here,” Rapinoe said. ”It’s a really amazing day. I think we’re going to look back on this day and say this is the moment that, you know, US Soccer changed for the better.”

According to the White House, the recipients of the award “have overcome significant obstacles to achieve impressive accomplishments in the arts and sciences, dedicated their lives to advocating for the most vulnerable among us, and acted with bravery to drive change in their communities, and across the world, while blazing trails for generations to come”.

In addition to Biles and Rapinoe, the award will also be presented to former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, New York critical care nurse Sandra Lindsay, and Brigadier General Wilma Vaugh, one of the most decorated women in the history of the US military. The honour will also be bestowed posthumously on Steve Jobs, Richard Trumka, and John McCain.