She’s been called “the greatest gymnast of all time” and “light years ahead of the competition,” but Simone Biles, 21, credits God with her tour de force at the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics where she became the first US gymnast to win four gold medals at once.
“I can go to (God) at any time,” Simone told Fox News. “He knows exactly what I need. Faith can calm me down. Everything happens for a reason.”
The fact that Simone would say everything happens for a reason is profoundly significant. She was born to parents lost in drug and alcohol abuse. She was caromed around the foster care system like a pinball until her grandmother and step-grandfather were contacted by a social worker, and they took her in.
The compact dynamo took overcoming adversity to the next level. She didn’t just “overcome,” she vaulted over obstacles with graceful twists and gasp-inducing flips to impose her dominance on the world stage and declare she would not be held victim to a troubled past.
In addition to her Olympic exploits, Simone is a four-time World all-around champion (2013–15, 2018), four-time World floor exercise champion (2013–15, 2018), two-time World balance beam champion (2014, 2015) and the 2018 World vault champion.
“Some of us older Olympians have talked about there being a physical limit to the sport, and then along comes Simone with all these incredible skills,” says Mary Lou Retton, a gold medal gymnast from 1984. “She’s like nothing I’ve seen in my lifetime.”
Simone was born in 1997 in Columbus, Ohio, the third of four siblings. Her mother, Shanon Biles, struggled with drugs and alcohol, while her father, Kelvin Clemons abandoned with family because of his own addictions.
After bouncing around foster care, Simone moved in with her grandfather Ron Biles, in Houston, Texas, in 2000. Together with his new wife, Nellie Cayetano Biles, Ron provided the necessary stability and Christian upbringing that helped Simone forget her dark past and become a champion.
Simone is 4’8” and so muscular that she used to wear a jacket at school to hide her muscles. She didn’t want to be embarrassed because she looked different than other girls.
It was Ron and Nellie who got Simone into gymnastics as an outlet for her boundless energy — as her older brother Adam says, Simone “was always flipping and jumping on furniture. My parents figured it would be better to put them in a safer environment.”
“I wouldn’t (have been in Rio) without my family,” Simone told the Houston Chronicle. “I can’t thank them enough for all the things they’ve given up for me to do what I love. Every time I compete, they can see that I’m happy.”
The couple officially adopted Simone and her siblings in 2003. They always took them to church on Sunday morning, prayed prayers and even got Simone out early from Wednesday gymnastics practice — to the chagrin of her trainer — to go to Bible instruction. She was homeschooled to accommodate intensive training schedules in the gym.
“I’ve been brought up to never take anything for granted and to always be the best Simone—the best version of myself,” Simone says on Glamour magazine. “From a very young age, (my adopted parents) always believed in us and told us to believe in ourselves.”
Nellie sees the hand of God in Simone’s coming to join her family.
“I’m a very prayerful person,” Nellie told CBN. Find out how Simone Biles overcame childhood with parents who abused drugs and alcohol.