Sure, Simone Biles can make a double-back with a half twist look easy, but that doesn’t mean the road to success was a walk in the park.
The 24-year-old gymnast, who is projected to win the gold medal once again in the individual all-around finals at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, was raised by her grandparents, Ron and Nellie Biles, and has vocalized her adoration for the couple multiple times over the years.
Who are Ron and Nellie Biles? How’d they meet, and where is Simone’s biological mother today?
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ron & Nellie Biles Met in College
According to The Undefeated, Ron and Nellie Biles met while Nellie was in college in San Antonio, and Ron was working in the Air Force.
Not long after graduating, Nellie became a nurse and co-owned a chain of Texas nursing homes. Ron, meanwhile, worked as an air traffic controller. Together, the couple had two sons, Ron Jr. and Adam.
The Air Force wasn’t Ron’s only job, though; he was also busy raising his daughter, Shanon (Simone’s biological mother) as a single father.
In a 2016 interview with TMZ, Simone’s mother Shannon said she has been sober since 2007 and is “sick of being painted as an addict.”
In the interview, Shanon added that she’s extremely supportive of Simone’s career and is happy to have reestablished a relationship with her biological daughter. “I just want to say I love you Simone … I’m so proud of you! Go Team USA and I’ll talk to you and see you when I can!”
2. Simone Was Adopted by Her Grandparents at Age 6
In 2003, when Simone was just six, she and her sister, Adria, were adopted by Ron and Nellie Biles and moved into their home in Spring, Texas, according to NBC New York. Upon taking Simone and Adria in, Nellie promised she would love the girls as if they were her own. She told The Undefeated, “I don’t know the exact date, but my heart just made room.”
Eventually, Simone decided that calling her grandparents ‘Mom and Dad’ was more fitting than referring to them as ‘Grandma and Grandpa’. Recalling the moment she had the revelation, Simone told 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!’ ”
After Simone was adopted, the newly-expanded family went to counseling for two years to ensure a smooth transition. Nellie told Reuters, “Me taking my barriers down and the children taking their barriers down and before you know it there is unconditional love that’s there between both of us, or between myself and my husband, and Simone and her sister. That goes for her brothers too, they feel the same way. It’s not something you can plan, it just happens.”
3. Ron Biles’ Sister Adopted Simone’s Older Brothers
When Simone’s mother, Shanon’s, drug and alcohol issues became overwhelming, she and her three siblings were put in foster care, according to NBC New York.
They jumped between foster homes for six years before finally being adopted. While Simone and Adria went to live with Ron and Nellie in Spring, Simone’s two brothers moved in with Ron’s sister. The Undefeated writes, “Simone used to do the talking for her little sister until she learned that she had a mother who wasn’t going anywhere and that she could relinquish that role.”
Nellie and Ron are extremely supportive of Simone’s career. In a 2016 interview, Nellie told Reuters,
It’s really hard to explain because you do not one day wake up and decide ‘oh good, I’m going to be her mother and I’m going to love being her mother’. It wasn’t an easy transition because they didn’t have any connection to me and I didn’t have any connection to them. It was a very trying time for me because they were not my children, they were related to Ron.
4. An NBC Announcer Was Shut Down For Statements About Ron & Nellie in 2016
In 2016, according to Fox News, NBC announcer Al Trautwig tweeted that Ron and Nellie Biles’ were not Simone’s parents. Specifically, he wrote that Ron and Nellie Biles “may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.”
The response was soon after deleted, but not before multiple people weighed in on the subject and criticized Trautwig for his claims.
Fox referenced one woman, Carrie Goldman, an adoptive mother, who said “…the comments deeply disrespect adopted children and parents.”
On August 8, Trautwig admitted that he “…regrets tweeting that the adoptive mother and father of American gymnastics star Simone Biles were not her parents, a declaration that angered advocates for adoption.”
5. Rom & Nellie Biles Suggested Homeschooling First
Simone was just six-years-old when she first began training as a gymnast; she started competing at age seven and quickly made her way through to the Junior National Team.
When Simone entered high school, she was forced to make a decision: stay in public school, or be homeschooled.
According to The Undefeated, Nellie Biles told Simone, “To advance to the elite level and be on that cover, she’d have to be homeschooled… There would be no prom, no after-school activities, no hanging with classmates.”
In 2012, Simone decided that was the path she wanted– she switched from public school to homeschooling, which allowed her to increase her training from about 20 hours a week to 32 hours a week.