Simone Biles Is THE Olympic Gymnastics Medal Favorite—But Her Life Was Not Always Golden

Simone Biles Instagram
Photo: @Simonebiles on Instagram

USA Gymnastics Olympics team member Simone Biles is headed to the games in Rio with a huge advantage: she hasn’t lost a competition in three years. Even though she’s only appeared at three times, she has 14 World Gymnastics Championship medals, more than any woman, EVER—and 10 of them are gold. But despite her golden successes in the gym, Biles’ path hasn’t always been easy. Now, it’s characterized most by hard work, but when she was young, it was simply HARD.

Biles was born on March 14, 1997, to a mother who was already addicted to drugs and alcohol. When she was three, children’s services called her maternal grandfather and told him she was in foster care. “I said, ‘Send them to me,'” Ron Biles told TIME Magazine of Simone and her two older siblings. She went back with her mother for a time, but when she was five, her mom’s parental rights were completely terminated and she was back in foster care again. It was then that Ron Biles and his wife Nellie ceased being parents to Simone and her younger sister Adria, who was 14 months at the time, and legally adopted them. Simone called them “Mom and Dad” from the start.” When I was younger, I thought every kid was adopted,” she told TIME. “I didn’t understand why people made it such a big deal. To me it’s just normal.”

simone biles instagram fathers day
Simone Biles posted this photo to her Instagram account on Father’s Day, saying, “Happy Father’s Day ❤️ Thanks for always protecting me, I love you!” Photo: @simonebiles on Instagram

After a rocky start, Simone’s path certainly became smoother thanks to her loving adopted parents. Then, gymnastics entered her life after a day care field trip to a gym. Her mom Nellie says Simone returned from the field trip with a note from the gym staff asking if Simone could take gymnastics lessons because she’d wowed them with her aptitude during the field trip. The rest, as they say, is history.

Biles is now SO good, so far ahead of even her teammates, that at the U.S. Gymnastics Olympic trials, she could have fallen off the balance beam TWICE and still won. That’s how much more difficult her routines are than everyone else’s. THAT’S HOW GOOD SIMONE BILES IS! Check out her winning floor routine at the P&G 2016 U.S. Gymnastics Championships. Her flips are simply breathtaking!

But of course Biles hopes to soon include even more gold medals in her trophy case as she proudly represents the United States at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro next month. Together with her teammates Gabby Douglas (defending all-around Olympic gold medalist), Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez, and Madison Kocian, Biles hopes to bring home another team gold for the U.S. The USA Gymnastics squad is SO strong and talented, many are comparing them to the Michael Jordan-led USA Men’s Olympic basketball “Dream Team” from 1992.

USA Gymnastics
Photo: USA Gymnastics

Of course, Biles also hopes to bring home some more medals for her very large personal collection. And with gymnatics greats like Mary Lou Retton and Bela Karolyi calling her the “greatest gymnast of all time,” I’ve no doubt that she will! I can’t wait to watch this hard-working girl who’s overcome SO much really shine on the world stage—for herself, for her country, and for the parents who chose to give her a real shot at a life full of love.

The Olympics in Rio start August 5th! Who are YOU excited to watch?

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Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.