Olympic Gold for Catholic Homeschooler Featured
Written by Michael Matt | Editor
Friday, August 12, 2016
Simone Arianne Biles was born March 14, 1997. The other night she became the 2016 Olympic individual all-around champion. But this little dynamo is no stranger to winning. She is a three-time world all-around champion, three-time world floor champion, two-time world balance beam champion, four-time US national all-around champion, and a member of the gold medal-winning American teams at the 2014, the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
More importantly from our perspective, Simone Biles is a Roman Catholic home-schooler who might have been a victim of abortion had her birth mother been someone other than Shannon Biles who suffered from drug and alcohol addiction but, rather than aborting her baby, gave Simone up for adoption.
The story is like something out of a feel-good movie, with little Simone—rather than ending up in a dumpster or sucked into a vacuum or having her head stabbed by an abortion doctor—getting a chance to live, and then going on to become the first woman in history to win three consecutive world all-around titles and, by the way, the most decorated American female gymnast in World Championships history, with a total of fourteen medals, ten of them gold.
Why? Because she was taken in by a loving and generous family who believed in her, challenged her, and showed her how to love Christ and keep her Catholic faith — all of which was only possible because Simone’s birth mother cared more for the sanctity of the life of her child than her own “reproductive rights as a woman.”
In 2003 Simone’s grandparents took the child and her sister, Adria, out of foster care, in order to give them a loving home and a chance to thrive despite all they’d been through. Simone’s grandfather is a retired air traffic controller while her grandmother is the former co-owner of a chain of nursing homes, and a woman obviously blessed with great compassion.
Simone Biles spent all her secondary education as a homeschooler and graduated in the summer of 2015. The family is Roman Catholic, and the little gymnast, who is now taking the world by storm, lights a votive candle to St. Sebastian (patron saint of athletes) before all of her meets. She also keeps her rosary with her at all times, and isn’t afraid to proudly admit it.
The 19-year-old told US Weekly that her mother gave her the cherished rosary, and that she keeps it with her at all times, praying before every competition “just in case.”
I’m not much of an Olympics guy. I got tired of all the politically correct claptrap that goes along with the games. I’ve discouraged my own children from paying any attention to them, in fact. But I do find it singularly annoying when the “up close and personal” stories that dominate the Olympic headlines are about Muslim athletes or transgenders or whatever, and then a story like this is ignored completely—the most decorated woman gymnast in Rio is an adopted, home-educated, Roman Catholic who prays the rosary and relies on God and His blessed Mother to help make her the best person and athlete she can be.
Kind of a big deal, unless you’re a one of the cold chroniclers of Christophobia in the mainstream media—in which case it’s cover-up time.
Whatever. The media will do what they do best. But the story of Simone Biles is a little shaft of light in a big world of darkness. It’s so encouraging to see that, despite everything, little miracles like this are still happening every day and all over the world.
A drug-addicted alcoholic living in Cleveland had enough goodness left in her soul to do the right thing, even when the whole world was telling her to do the wrong thing. She kept the child, put her up for adoption, and great things happened.
God is good and all is not lost. All glory and honor to Him, and may He bless and keep Shannon Biles for giving a dreary world something good to believe in for a change — a brilliant little gymnast who’s proudly in love with Jesus Christ.
Rio 2016: How Simone Biles Crushed the Olympic Competition
The 19-year-old finished with the largest winning margin in a half-century as U.S. team captain Aly Raisman claimed silver
By Louise Radnofsky and
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
Aug. 11, 2016 8:34 p.m. ET
Rio de Janeiro
The gold medal in the Olympic women’s gymnastics individual all-around competition wasn’t merely won by Simone Biles, and it wasn’t only the most convincing argument yet that Biles is the greatest of all time in her sport.
It was also a triumph for a training style built around a word that’s all but taboo in the intense world of Olympic gymnastics: moderation.
Biles defied even the most unreasonable expectations of her Thursday, winning the premier event in women’s gymnastics by a ludicrous 2.1 points, which shattered every Olympic record from at least the last half-century.
The best among everyone not named Biles was U.S. team captain Aly Raisman, who won silver after a fourth-place finish in 2012. Alina Mustafina of Russia took bronze.
But all the attention in the Rio Olympic Arena was devoured by Biles. On the final performance of the event’s final rotation, Biles clinched gold with a magnificent floor routine, capped by her signature move “The Biles.” As soon as her score came in, she was crowned the fourth consecutive American woman to win the individual all-around, following Gabby Douglas, Nastia Liukin and Carly Patterson.
She also eclipsed each of them. The charismatic 19-year-old’s margin of victory more than tripled the closest gap between No. 1 and No. 2 in every Olympics of the last 40 years. But it was somehow even more unthinkable than that. Her win of 2.1 points was bigger than the margin of victory in every individual all-around from 1980 to 2012 combined.
The coronation of Biles was the closest thing to Olympic inevitability as there could be. The only person who bothered worrying was her mother, Nellie Biles, who was so nervous that she arrived at the Rio Olympic Arena three hours before the meet began. It turned out she had nothing to worry about.
The gold medal was the ultimate payoff for a gymnast who has broken every stereotype of gymnastics training. Biles is so unusually good that she can also be unusually normal. And that has only made her better.
Her unorthodox style has been apparent from the very beginning of her career. Biles never left home to practice with an elite, established coach, though Texas has no shortage of them. Instead, she became the three-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist, all while remaining in the Houston area with the same coach she’s had since she was seven years old.
Simone Biles, right, and Aimee Boorman, who has coached the 19-year-old gymnast since the age of seven. ENLARGE
Simone Biles, right, and Aimee Boorman, who has coached the 19-year-old gymnast since the age of seven. Photo: emmanuel dunand/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
It took an improbable turn of events for that coach, Aimee Boorman, to end up around Biles in the first place. Boorman had been coaching since she was a teenager, and by the time she graduated from college near Chicago, she was ready for a full-time gig. Her roommate happened to have job interviews near Houston, so Boorman tagged along. “I was, like, road trip!” she said. She hit four gymnastics clubs the first day, three the following day and then decided to move there.
It wasn’t long before she plucked from a beginners’ class a promising young gymnast named Simone. “Whatever sport Simone chose to go into,” she said, “she was going to be amazing.”
Boorman identified something in Biles that she knew she needed to nurture. She went with a low-key approach that’s rare in this sport. That meant letting Biles simply have fun in the gym in her early years, rather than pushing her towards Olympic greatness and risk losing her entirely.
“There are programs where the demand is overwhelming at such an early age,” Boorman said after Biles’s gold-medal-winning performance. “I believe in family vacations. I believe in taking time off. I believe that if it’s your best friend’s birthday you take the day.”
It turned out to be the right strategy. The only ways that Biles wouldn’t have blossomed into an Olympic champion would be if she had broken herself or burned out. That was the beauty of their approach. The worst thing that could have afflicted Biles was overextension. Boorman made sure it didn’t happen.
They could afford to train this way in part because of the U.S. women’s gymnastics structure. As a member of the national team, Biles attends mandatory training camps every month in Huntsville, Texas, where the show is run by Martha Karolyi, the long-time national team coordinator credited with an extraordinary winning streak by the U.S. women’s team that continued this week with a gold medal. At home, though, the personal coaches and the gymnasts are on their own.
How they handle one apparatus in particular could be a case study in the Biles-Boorman method. Boorman says there are some gymnasts who do 10 vaults every day. Biles may do 10 in an entire week—and that’s a busy week.
“I don’t think she necessarily needs to, and she wouldn’t want to,” Boorman said. “She’d be, like, this is boring. I want to go do something else.”
It’s a style that reflects their personalities. Boorman, a 43-year-old mother of three, laughs regularly in interviews and calmly deflects questions she doesn’t want to answer, like whether this U.S. women’s team is the greatest ever. Biles, who has been Snapchatting her way around the Athletes’ Village this week, still prefers to joke around rather than huddle under a towel to prepare for her upcoming routines. Their relaxed style translates to the floor—where Biles hasn’t been toppled on the world stage in four years.
Even on Thursday, hours before the all-around final, Biles and Boorman weren’t exactly freaking out. “We never talk about gymnastics,” Boorman said. “We talk about silly stuff.”
In women’s gymnastics, however, Boorman admits that’s a radical idea. Karolyi’s preparation motto on the road to the Rio Games was “strive for perfection.” Boorman has instructed the five U.S. women’s gymnasts, especially Biles, to compete “from a place of joy.” When she defines success, it’s with words like “healthy, happy and safe.”
“I think it’s really important,” Boorman said, “that you’re able to function as a normal human.”
How normal Biles’s life will be from now on depends on what happens next week. She has already won two gold medals in Rio, and she’s favored to win three more in the vault, beam and floor routine individual events beginning Sunday. “That’s crazy to think about,” Biles said.
No one knows her next step—whether she will compete in the 2020 Games, or even whether Olympic royalty is still marketable—and Biles’s camp insist she hasn’t thought about anything beyond Rio.
The reason she’s even in this position is that nothing about Biles changed before the Olympics. In the gym these days, Boorman said, it’s still Biles who calls the shots. “She paces herself,” her coach said. “When Simone says, ‘I’ve got it,’ she’s got it. I don’t push her to achieve a skill before she’s ready for it.”
Sometimes those skills are absurd even for her. To blow off steam, Biles will pull off elements that are far too difficult to compete in an arena with millions of people around the world watching, at least until Boorman filmed them for posterity. She held off posting them online for a while at Karolyi’s request: It could tip off the competition. Then, in the past month, there was a flood—a tantalizing glimpse of everything Biles is capable of.
Here, though, it seems even Karolyi is happy to embrace the Biles-Boorman way. Last week, she lavished a rare gift on the U.S. team: an off day. Biles celebrated by watching “Modern Family” on her laptop, challenged other Olympians to games of ping pong and wound down by playing Uno with her teammates. She looked out her window in the afternoon to a shocking image: Karolyi reclining in a pool chair. Biles was especially pleased with this unexpected development.
“Straight chillin’,” she wrote on Snapchat. “That’s what legends do.”