Simone Biles performs as if she had been primed for the Olympics from the moment of birth, but the truth is that Simone’s opportunity to pursue Olympic gold was only made possible by the love and support of two adoptive parents. In fact, one of the record-breaking gymnast’s childhood memories is of life in a foster home where she and her siblings were not allowed to play on the trampoline. Look at her now.
The Spring, Texas, native is breaking records internationally and stealing the show at the Rio Olympics, where experts say Simone is so far ahead of her competition that the only person she’s competing against “is herself.” In fact, Simone’s moves are so extraordinary that they are even named after her.
But we would not be hearing Simone Biles’ story of Olympic dominance and record-breaking gymnastic prowess today if her grandparents had not adopted her and her sister as young children. Last month, Texas Monthly reported that Biles was born to “drug-addicted parents who struggled to care for their children.” Biles’ upbringing was tumultuous – she never even knew her biological father – but her life took on a new and meaningful trajectory at the time of her adoption. According to Texas Monthly:
When Biles was six, she and her younger sister, Adria, were adopted by their maternal grandfather, Ron, and his second wife, Nellie, who brought them to live in their house in Spring, a prosperous suburb of 55,000 people half an hour’s drive north of Houston. (The two older siblings were adopted by Ron’s sister.) At the time, the sisters called Ron and Nellie “Grandpa” and “Grandma,” but one day Nellie sat Simone and Adria down for a talk. “She said, ‘It’s up to you guys. If you want to, you can call us Mom and Dad,’ ” Simone remembered. “I went upstairs and tried practicing it in the mirror—‘Mom, Dad, Mom, Dad.’ Then I went downstairs, and she was in the kitchen. I looked up at her and I was like, ‘Mom?’ She said, ‘Yes!’ ”
Biles’ adoptive mother said Simone was always headstrong, so when she wanted to join gymnastics at the age of six, her parents heeded the request. Through her childhood gymnastics training, Biles came to know her coach and “surrogate mother,” Aimee Boorman. Boorman began coaching Biles eleven years ago. “She’s known me forever,” said Biles, “so I feel like she’s my second mom.”
Thanks to the parents and parent-figures who entered Biles’ life at an early age, she was able to achieve her potential as an athlete and receive the support and development she needed to grow into the young woman she is today. Biles’ Catholic faith, too, plays an integral role in who she is. On Sundays, Biles’ only day off from training each week, she attends Mass with her family.
As Benny Johnson of the Independent Journal noted: “So when you’re watching Simone Biles make the entire country proud… break records… and perform the impossible in mid-air… remember the love of an adoptive family who made it all possible.”