Gymnast keeps rosary — a gift from her mom — close when she competes

IMAGE: CNS photo/Mike Blake, Reuters


Olympic gymnast and gold medalist Simone Biles says when she travels, she
sometimes takes with her a statue of St. Sebastian, the patron saint of
athletes, and she also carries a rosary her mother gave her.

Biles, who won gold in the women’s gymnastics all-around competition Aug. 11 and helped lead the U.S. women to a team gold Aug. 9, made those
comments to Us Weekly.

“My mom, Nellie, got me a
rosary at church. I don’t use it to pray before a competition. I’ll just pray
normally to myself, but I have it there in case,” the 19-year-old told the
magazine in a July 8 interview.

Her remark about her
patron saint was part of a list in an Aug. 9 article about Biles posted by
the magazine online with the headline, “25 Things You Don’t Know About Me.”

Biles’ hometown is
Spring, Texas, which is in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. The London-based
Catholic Herald described her as “a Sunday Massgoer.” Other news accounts said
that Sunday is the only day she does not practice gymnastics so she can go to
church with her family at St. James Catholic Church in Spring.

According to several news
reports, Biles was born in Columbus, Ohio, to parents who were drug addicts.
Her father left and young Simone bounced back and forth from her mother’s house
to foster homes. When she was 5 or 6, her grandparents, Ronald and Nellie Biles,
adopted her and her younger sister, Adria, and they moved to Texas.

According to her bio on
the Team USA website,, Biles was homeschooled. Besides a
sister, she has two brothers, Ronald and Adam.

Her interest in
gymnastics took hold 13 years ago. “My first experience with gymnastics was
when I was in daycare. We took a field trip to a gym and I was hooked,” she
told Us Weekly.

But she added: “Gymnastics
is just one part of my life, and I’m having as much fun with it as possible. At
some point, I’ll have to go get a real job.”

Her favorite routine is
the floor, she said. Biles is described as determined, disciplined and
something of a perfectionist.

“She’s always been
headstrong,” her mom, a retired nurse, told Texas Monthly magazine. “When she
makes up her mind, it’s, like, oh my gosh — the whole world could be upset and
she’d still do it. My other kids would listen. Her, no. She makes her mind up
and that’s it.”

Biles’ approach to
her sport has paid off. She is the three-time world all-around champion, 2013-15;
three-time world floor champion, 2013-15; two-time world balance beam champion,
2014, 2015; and four-time U.S. national all-around champion (2013-16). She was
a member of the gold medal-winning American teams at the 2014 and 2015 World
Artistic Gymnastics.

Biles is expected to take home
the gold in individual events still to come. She and her Rio teammates —
Hernandez, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas and Madison Kocian — nicknamed
themselves “The Final Five.” Their margin of victory for the gold in the team
event was 8 points. Russia
took home silver and China took bronze.

– – –

Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Original Article