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Simone Biles. Even those who don’t follow gymnastics are familiar with her name. And now that the Olympic games are in full swing, all eyes are on the American. But Simone Biles life wasn’t always this picture-perfect. As a girl, her family fell apart around her. She was abandoned by her father, and taken from her mother. So how did things turn around?

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It seems almost impossible to believe that the fate of the most decorated gold medalist in world championship gymnastics history was once much less certain. Biles’s father abandoned the family. Her mother had problems with drugs. Then came a series of foster homes.

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Yet there was hope on her horizon. Bile’s grandparents, recognizing the dire circumstances their grandchildren faced, stepped in and adopted the kids. Ron and Nellie Biles adopted Simone and her two siblings.

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At the time, Ron and Nellie recognized that this was a permanent move. The girls had always known the two as “Grandpa” and “Grandma.” That was about to change. Simone explained how it happened to Texas Monthly. Her grandmother had a meeting with the girls. “She said, ‘It’s up to you guys. If you want to, you can call us Mom and Dad,’ ” Simone said.

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“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!’ ”

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From that point on, this is how the family has run. Ron and Nellie function as Biles’s mother and father. And they were the ones who introduced her to gymnastics.

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It is safe to say that Simone Biles is a phenomenon. She’s in a league all her own. Her competitors are simply playing for second place, and they know it. The 19-year-old gymnast for Team U.S.A. is expected to bring home as many as five gold medals.

Yet Biles is becoming so much more. Her athletic prowess is even more poignant becasue of her background. There’s a stigma, still, in this country that hangs over the foster system. And adoption, though common, is still a touchy subject. But faith trumps both of those. And Biles is not shy about expressing the role of God in her life, either.

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Take her training for example. Biles trains six days a week. The schedule is as rigorous as you would expect for an Olympian and a world champion. Yet she takes Sunday off and attends mass with her family. She embraces this obligation, and speaks openly about how her family’s strength has grown from their faith.

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And now she’s the image America has put forward for the rest of the world. She’s living proof of the value of faith and family. h/t IJR