A gymnast who keeps a rosary in her bag won three Olympic gold medals last week.
The American Simone Biles, 19, emerged as a star of Rio after winning events including the all-round women’s gymnastics individual competition – regarded as the sport’s ultimate prize. Her performances were hailed as almost flawless.
After the second final ended Biles cried through laughter as she embraced her long-time coach, Aimee Boorman, and fellow competitor, Aly Raisman, who won silver.
Biles said: “Aimee and Aly told me I’d done it and when that hits you, you can’t stop the emotions.”
In an interview with US Magazine, she revealed that she carried a white rosary in her gym bag.
“My mum, Nellie, got me a rosary at church,” she said. “I don’t use it to pray before a competition. I’ll just pray normally to myself, but it’s there just in case.”
Biles’s mother had problems with drugs and alcohol and struggled to care for her and her sibling. She and her sister were adopted by her grandparents, Ron and Nellie Biles, when she was five. She grew up in Texas.
Biles was introduced to gymnastics aged six. Even before then, her grandmother Nellie said, “she always had loved bouncing on furniture in the house”.
Biles is a Sunday Mass-goer. When she travels she sometimes takes with her a statue of St Sebastian, the patron saint of athletes. She also lights candles to the saint before big events.
Biles has dominated women’s gymnastics for the last three years.
She has already won 10 World Championship medals and is the most decorated US female gymnast in the competition’s history.
Refugee athletes ‘show what it takes to come from nothing’
Glued to the improvised screen set up on the patio of Caritas house, Rio de Janeiro, the refugees yelled and they cried. But most of all they cheered as their friends in the Refugee Olympic team competed not far away in Rio.
Mirelle Muluila, from Congo, said: “They represent the strength it takes to come from nothing and being considered a ‘nobody’, to becoming a champion.”
Muluila studied international relations in her country, but here in Brazil, where she has lived for 23 months, she continues to struggle with the language and the lack of opportunities. “We want to tell the world that we are somebody … We are doctors and engineers and teachers,” she said, “we have education but had to flee our countries, not because we wanted to, but because we were forced to.”
Serge Shindano agreed: “This team is the victory scream of all refugees. People believe that we don’t belong anywhere, but we do … we belong to the world and the world belongs to all.”
“This team will start to break the barrier. It will show the other peoples of the world that we are able to do lots of things,” said Mariama Bah of Gambia.
Manhattan church hires sheep
A historic New York City church has imported three sheep to serve as lawn mowers in its 200-year-old cemetery.
The woolly visitors graze on grass and weeds in the graveyard of the Basilica of St Patrick’s Old Cathedral in Manhattan. Six parishioners have been trained to care for them. Mgr Donald Sakano said the sheep were a “good catechetical tool” as they were referenced so often in the Bible.