One of the world's most decorated gymnasts, 19-year-old Simone Biles, is the favorite to win five Olympic gold medals at the 2016 Summer Olympics. However, in order to get to Rio, she had to overcome a chaotic childhood.
Born to a single, drug-abusing mother, she spent most of her developing years between her mother's house and a series of foster homes, according to Texas Monthly. At the age of 6, her maternal grandparents, Ron and Nellie, decided to step in and adopt Biles and her younger sister.
Biles recalls an emotional moment when she decided to stop calling Nellie and Ron Grandma and Grandpa and instead, opted for Mom and Dad.
“[Nellie] said, ‘It’s up to you guys. If you want to, you can call us Mom and Dad,’” said Biles to Texas Monthly. “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!’”
She was soon enrolled in beginner's gymnastics classes. However, as Texas Monthly notes, she actually got a late start as parents who dream to have their kids compete at the Olympic level enroll their children in lessons as soon as they can walk.
At the age of 8, Simone's incredible skills caught the eye of Aimee Boorman, who soon become her personal coach, a position that she still holds today as Simone takes the stage at Rio. From there, Biles has never looked back, eventually becoming the most decorated American female gymnast in World Championships history.
Some of Biles' success is due to the support her parents provide, as well as her Christian faith. The Independent Journal reports that when she is not competing she attends church every Sunday with her family. She also regularly prays and carries a rosary her mother gave her to help her pray before a competition.
Biles has seen her birth mother a couple of times throughout the years, but she is not involved in her life. “She was just like another cousin,” said Biles to Texas Monthly. “I would say hi, catch up with her, and move on.”
Her biological father is completely out of the picture; Ron doesn't even remember his name.
Shannon Biles, Simone's biological mother, claims to have been clean for several years and often complains that the media doesn't paint her in a complimentary light. But Ron has some harsh words for her, according to Texas Monthly: “I say [to Shannon], ‘They couldn’t care less about you. The only thing they care about is Simone and why she’s with us. Now you’re better, that’s fine, but the story’s not about you. It’s about Simone.’”