These are some of the ways Simone Biles has been described by her competition, even before her Olympic debut. Biles, a 19-year-old gymnast for Team U.S.A., is already the most decorated gold medalist in world championship gymnastics history. In Rio, she is on the fast track to becoming the best in the world, again, being an odds-on favorite to bring home as many as five gold medals.
Biles is able, with ease, to pull off moves other gymnasts could only dream about in a world seemingly unbound by the laws of gravity. Her routines and dismounts are so complex and so rarely seen in competition, they just name them after her.
Here is her signature move, known as “The Biles”:
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) August 8, 2016
Simone is on her way to bringing the U.S.A. glory on an international stage, becoming a household name for millions, and signing tens of millions of dollars worth of lucrative endorsement deals.
And to think, none of it would have been possible without adoption.
Biles was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1997 to drug-addicted parents who struggled to care for their children. Biles and her three siblings were shuffled back and forth between their mother’s house and a foster home. (Biles’s father had abandoned her mother and was never present in his daughter’s life.)
When I asked her what memories she has from those days, Biles recalled that one of the foster homes had a trampoline that she and her siblings weren’t allowed to play on.
Her upbringing was chaotic. Biles bounced back and forth between state and foster care until she was six years old. In 2001, her grandparents, Ron and Nellie Biles, officially adopted Simone and her sister and moved them to Spring, Texas.
Simone describes the moment when her grandparents, Ron and Nellie, became Mom and Dad in Texas Monthly:
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!’ ”
Here is what Simone wrote about her parents on Father’s and Mother’s Day this year:
Happy Father's Day to the best dad out there! Thanks for always protecting me! I love you ❤️
Happy Mothers Day to the worlds most amazing, sassy and cutest mom! I love you momma biles ???
Ron and Nellie were the first to introduce Simone to the sport of gymnastics. After a year at a local Texas gym, Biles was spotted by trainer and former competitive gymnast, Aimee Boorman, who has since overseen her meteoric rise.
Her parents also introduced Simone to her Christian faith. She attends mass with her family every Sunday when she is not competing. Simone prays regularly and carries a rosary that her mother gave her.
It was Simone’s grounding in faith and a loving family that has allowed her to reach such super-human heights. Her grueling training routine has always been supported by her mother and father, who are with her every step of the way.
First-time U.S. Olympic Hopeful Simone Biles is ready for her trials, thanks to the support of her teammates! #GetsMeStarted #TeamKelloggs #RoadToRio
Posted by Team USA on Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Her schedule, according to Texas Monthly, looks pretty crazy:
In a typical week Biles trains on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12:30 to 5:30; on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 9 to noon and 3 to 6; and on Saturdays from 9 to 1. On Sundays, her one day off, she goes to church with her family.
So when you’re watching Simone Biles make the entire country proud…
and perform the impossible in mid-air…
…remember the love of an adoptive family who made it all possible.
Now go get ’em, Simone!
Editor’s Note: This article and headline were updated after publishing.