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Acclaimed African American gymnast, Simone Biles (b. 1997), was in foster care and kinship care before being adopted. 

Simone was born in Columbus, Ohio. Her father abandoned the family when Simone was very young. Her mother, Shannon, was unable to care for her four children because of drug and alcohol issues. The children often went hungry.  

Child protection services became involved and placed all four siblings into foster care. Simone was three years old. 

We were very fortunate that you got to stay with your siblings, because a lot of the time you either get regrouped from home to home to home or you and your siblings get split up (The Guardian). 

In 2000, the siblings moved to Spring, Texas, which is a suburb of Houston. Their maternal grandfather, Ron Biles, and his second wife Nellie took them in. Ron is a former air traffic controller and Air Force veteran. Nellie is a nurse who owned and operated nursing homes. 

Then, in 2003, the couple adopted Simone and her younger sister, Adria, who is also a gymnast. Ron’s sister in Ohio adopted the two older siblings, Ashley and Tevin. Simone and Adria regarded Ron and Nellie as their parents and had a happy and loving childhood with them.  

Simone began taking gymnastics classes when she was six years old. She was taken to a gym on a daycare field trip where she imitated teenage girls practicing gymnastics. The coaches were impressed and wrote to her family suggesting that Simone be enrolled in gymnastics classes. 

Simone eventually began home-schooling to focus on gymnastics training. She trained six to eight hours every day with her former coach, Aimee Boorman. Then, in 2014, Ron and Nellie opened their own gymnastics training centre, The World Training Centre. 

Simone later became the most decorated American gymnast in history. In 2012, she placed first all-around and on vault, which earned her a spot to compete at the 2012 USA Gymnastics National Championships. Then in 2013, Simone was the national all-around champion at the USA Gymnastics National Championships and became the first African-American woman to win the World Championship all-around title.  

Simone is the first American woman to win seven national all-around titles and first female gymnast to earn three consecutive World Gymnastics Championships titles. She went on to win four gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics.  

Simone has won a total of thirty-two medals from the World Championships and seven Olympic medals. Four gymnastics moves have been named after her.   

Simone has received many other accolades. She has been named as TIME 100 Most Influential, USA Today 100 Women of the Century, and two-time Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year. In 2022, Joe Biden awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, making her the youngest person to ever receive the highest civilian honour in the United States.  

Simone began dating Jonathan Owens, an NFL player for the Houston Texans, in 2020. The couple recently became engaged and are presently planning a wedding for 2023.

Simone is an outspoken advocate for the rights of children. She publicly described her experiences of adoption while appearing on the American television programme, Dancing With The Stars. 

Simone also uses her public platform to promote the importance of mental health. Simone was diagnosed with ADHD as a young child and strives to prioritise emotional well-being above her career.  

At the end of the day, we’re not just entertainment. We’re human, and there are things going on behind the scenes that we’re also trying to juggle with, as well, on top of sports (Hello Magazine). 


“About Simone Arianne Biles.Simone Biles official website. 

Caplan, Anna Lazarus. “Simone Biles Shares Stunning Photos from Her Engagement Shoot: ‘The Best Part of Me Is You.’” People, December 16. 2022.  

Harper, Zach. “Simone Biles speaks out about mental health after winning bronze in balance beam at Tokyo Olympics.” Hello Magazine, 3 Aug 2021. 

Olympic Gymnast Simone Biles Adopted From Foster Care by Grandparents”. KVC Health Systems, 9 August 2016. 

“Simone Biles Gymnast and Olympic Gold Medalist.” Academy of Achievement. 

“The cat got fed instead of us’: Simone Biles discusses her childhood hunger.” The Guardian, 1 July 2021. 

Image available here.