Simone Biles has come a long way to get where she is today.
The superstar gymnast, who was placed in foster care as a toddler when her mother couldn’t care for her and her three siblings, opened up about that aspect of her childhood and her eventual adoption by her grandparents in her Facebook Watch series, “Simone vs. Herself.”
“I don’t remember a lot about foster care, but I definitely knew that we had been taken from our biological mom and then you just think you’re going to go back to her,” she said in Tuesday’s episode, titled “Who Am I?”
“We were very fortunate that we actually got to stay with our 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.”
Biles and her siblings also endured bouts of hunger when they were under the care of their biological mom.
“Growing up, me and my siblings were so focused on food because we didn’t have a lot of food,” she said. “I remember there was this cat around the house and I’d be so hungry. They would feed this cat and I’m like, ‘Where the heck is my food?’ And so I think that’s where it stemmed where I don’t like cats is because this frickin’ street cat, she always fed it, but she never fed us.”
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A critical moment in Biles’ life occurred when her mother’s parents adopted her, along with younger sister Adria, putting her on a path for a good life and setting the stage for her to become the person and athlete she is now. While Biles and Adria moved to Texas to be with their grandparents, their two older siblings, Ashley and Tevin, stayed in Ohio when they were adopted by their father’s sister.
“Being separated from my biological mom, being placed in foster care before I officially got adopted by my grandparents, it just set me up for a better route at life and I feel like I wouldn’t be where I am unless that turning point happened,” she said.
“I would still be Simone Biles, probably not Simone Biles that everybody else knows, the world knows. But I also believe everything happens for a reason and I’m forever grateful for that because I definitely got a second shot at life.”
Biles, considered by many to be the greatest gymnast in history, has won more than 30 World and Olympic medals, including five — and four gold — at the Summer Games in Rio in 2016. Last weekend, she dominated the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials, earning her a spot in the Tokyo Olympics.
Her interest in the sport, though, happened by accident. Biles was a little girl when she was supposed to go on a field trip, but bad weather forced a change in plans and her class went to a gymnastics facility.
“The first time I was exposed to gymnastics really was the day-care field trip,” Biles said. “I don’t ever remember watching it on TV or seeing pictures in a magazine. I just remember imitating all the older girls in the back gym and seeing if I could do it while I was in the front gym on the trampoline and the floor and just having a blast. Like, I just had fun.”
She joined a class and was the smallest person it, without realizing just how good she was.
“I didn’t see the talent that I had and the pace I went, which was so much faster than my teammates,” she said.
While Americans will be rooting for Biles when she competes in the Tokyo Games, she also has one particularly special person in her corner: boyfriend Jonathan Owens, who plays for the NFL’s Houston Texans.
“He is absolutely amazing. We’re like best friends that are dating, so I feel like that just really helps,” she said.
Biles says that Owens has fit in perfectly with her family.
“Mama Biles, I can’t tell you how scared I was to take him over there,” she said.
“I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. You know, my parents are a little harsh.’ I was like, ‘So don’t worry if they don’t like you.’ But then, he met my brother, met my family. And then it just clashed really well and I was like, ‘Wow.’ Now they invite him over. One time he went over there without me. But, yeah, it’s great.”