There's one woman cheering in the stands, prouder than anyone else during Simone Biles' gymnastics routines. Her enthusiastic reassurance and constant presence in the gym is making Olympic fans wonder: who is Simone's adoptive mother, Nellie Biles? The only family member giving her a run for her money might be Simone's adoptive dad, Ron. Needless to say, the now several-times-over gold medalist has a big contingent of family there in Rio to support her, and in her parents' case, they have been there every step of the way. To help make her dreams a reality, in fact, they even built a gym.
Simone has been open about the positive influence her mom has had in her life. "She encourages me and never lets me feel down about something for too long," Simone wrote to CNN in an email. "If I've had a bad day in the gym or needed emotional support, she was always there."
Nellie has been there since 2003 when she and Simone's biological grandfather, Ron, adopted her. Simone still sees her biological mother, but Nellie is "Mom" and Ron is "Dad," according to the family's interview with Texas Monthly. Simone recollected the moment she began calling Nellie and Ron "Mom" and "Dad" during her interview. Nellie sat Simone and her sister Adria down for a talk. They could continue to call her and Ron "Grandma" and "Grandpa" or switch.
Simone remembered how the talk went:
She said, "It's up to you guys. If you want to, you can call us Mom and Dad." 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!"
From that moment it's been official, and Nellie has done a remarkable job — although she would say it just kind of happened naturally. "I think the deeper strength develops naturally and you don't even realize you have it until one moment you look back and you realize you did a good job," she told CNN. She sees her role in Rio as helping Simone stay calm and continuing to take it day by day, she explained to the news outlet:
My job is mainly support and to help keep her focused, relaxed and grounded. She has it together. I am so proud of her.
Nellie's family, many of whom live in Belize, where she is from, would argue that the togetherness comes from Nellie. During an interview with The New York Times, Felix Enriquez, a cousin, said that Simone is "Nellie's child all over," and possesses many of Nellie's best qualities:
A fair but stern personality. Always demanding that things be done in a proper way. A very big thinker. She doesn't think small.
Simone's parents couldn't imagine life without her and would encourage most to consider adopting. Ron described his and Nellie's decision to adopt during an interview with USA Today:
Raising kids is just a wonderful thing. You get to see them grow and be a part of that and I can't think of anything more satisfying. It is an important issue and I could only say good things about it.
Nellie had an equally, if not more powerful way of looking at it. She told the Times:
I think these girls did more for us than we did for them. Simone centralized us as a family. We come together and do things and go places because of Simone.
Nellie and Ron are clearly the type of parents any Olympian — or any kid, really — wishes for and they're going to continue to be there for Simone each step of the way.