“I Thought Every Kid Was Adopted,” Simone Biles On Her Childhood And Her Mother’s Struggles With Addiction

August 9, 2016  |  

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Simone Biles On Her Childhood And Her Mother's Struggles With Addiction


Simone Biles’ name is all over the news, and rightly so. She is dominating. And has been doing so since 2013, the last time she lost a competition. Earlier today, we wrote about her mother Nellie tweeting to her wishing her good luck in Rio.

Nellie is Simone’s mother. She is the woman who raised her and supported her talents and passions. But she is not the woman who gave birth to her. Simone Biles’ real mother struggled with an addiction to drugs and alcohol even before the Olympian was born.

When Simone was three-years old, she and her younger sister Adria were adopted by her maternal grandfather and his wife Nellie. In a recent interview with Time, Ron said, “The social worker called and said the kids were in foster care,” says Ron. “I said, send them to me.”

Simone and her sister lived with Ron and Nellie and their two older sons for nearly two years. But the arrangement was temporary. Their mother still had parental rights. After they were sent back to live with her though, it wasn’t long before the social worker called Ron again saying that the children were being put up for adoption since their mother was deemed unfit to care for them.

Ron only wanted to adopt 14 month old Adria. But Nellie insisted they take both children so they could keep each other company.

On the very first day of their lives together, Christmas Eve 2002, Simone asked Nellie if she could call her mom.

Biles said, “When I was younger, I thought every kid was adopted,” she says. “I didn’t understand why people made it such a big deal. To me it’s just normal.”

Biles does speak to her birth mother occasionally, on birthdays and holidays and has met her a few times, at Nellie’s suggestion. But she choses to focus her energy into one family.

“I wonder what my life would be like if none of this happened. I want to know why my mother did what she did. But those aren’t questions for me because that was her lifestyle when I wasn’t even born. I have everything I need so there are no blanks left unfilled. I never felt I had questions or needed answers or had a part of me that was missing.”

Biles took interest in gymnastics after a daycare field trip to a gymnastics center. Simone was immediately captivated by the sport and the fact that it allowed her to move back and forth between four different type of equipment.

Nellie nurtured the interest for her hyperactive daughter who was always flipping and tumbling on the house furniture. Biles is also a fan of the glitz of it all.

“I love competing. Most athletes get intimidated once they see how many fans are out there, but it almost calms me down in a way because I think of it as a fun way to show off what I’ve been working on.”

Biles believes her approach to competition could actually benefit her teammates.

“I think I’m teaching my teammates that they can still be successful while having fun, and enjoying the moment rather than being a stone cold brick. You can have fun and do well. Just let loose a bit.”

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