As expected, Simone Biles blew away the competition in the All-Around in Gymnastics. What wasn’t expected is Simone Manuel tying for Gold in the Pool.
U.S. swimmer Simone Manuel became the first African-American woman to win a gold medal in an individual swimming event Thursday night. Manuel tied with Canadian Penny Oleksiak and beat world record-holder Cate Campbell in the women’s 100m freestyle final, breaking down in tears upon realizing the significance of her achievement. “The gold medal wasn’t just for me. It was for people that came before me and inspired me to stay in the sport,” the 20-year-old Stanford University student said after her win. It was her first Olympic Games.
BELIZE CITY, Belize — One o’clock arrived. Relatives gathered at a hotel bar to watch Olympic gymnastics on television. So did the first lady of Belize and 11 contestants in the coming Miss Belize pageant, wearing their sashes and carrying tiny flags. But where was Simone Biles?
The women’s individual all-around competition had begun 4,000 miles away on Thursday afternoon at the Rio Games. Biles, 19, was the heavy American favorite, but there was also anticipation in an unlikely place, the tiny Central American country of Belize, where she holds dual citizenship…
Biles’s connection to Belize is as complex and ultimately elevating as the flips, jumps and windmill spins that have made her the best gymnast of her generation, perhaps ever.
She was born in 1997 in Columbus, Ohio, to a mother who struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol, and to a father who was not part of her life. In 2002, Biles’s birth mother lost custody of her four children, who were placed in foster care and faced the possibility of being scattered by adoption.
Instead, Simone, then 6, and her younger sister Adria, then 4, were adopted in 2003 by their maternal grandfather, Ron Biles, and his second wife, Nellie Cayetano Biles, who is from a prominent Belizean family of teachers and nurses and government officials. (Nellie is not Simone’s biological grandmother; Simone’s other two biological siblings were adopted by Ron’s older sister.)
Before, Ron and Nellie were known to Simone and Adria as Grandpa and Grandma. Now they are Mom and Dad.
Nellie’s mother, Evarista Cayetano, was a teacher and an owner of a grocery store. Her father, Silas Cayetano, also began his career as a teacher, then became an official in Belize’s fishing and agricultural cooperatives, and, later, a senator…