New York Times in Belize Exploring Simone Biles’ Links to the Jewel
For Belizeans following the Olympics, the name Simone Biles may have popped up a number of times by now. The nineteen year old gymnast has already won several world championships outside of her qualifying for the US Olympic Gymnastics team, and is widely considered the top gymnast in the world. She and the rest of the US Women’s Gymnastics Team had gold between their teeth as they took the podium on Monday but beginning Wednesday, Biles will be competing for individual medals, which she is expected to snag quite handily. As an added point of pride, Biles has a special Belizean link thanks to her adopted mother, Nellie Biles so even though she is competing under the stars and stripes banner, many feel a connection to the gymnast. It’s enough to warrant a visit from New York Times sports writer, Jeré Longman, who flew in from Rio in Brazil to check out the connection first hand. He is scheduled to visit the home of Sylas Cayetano who is the father of Nellie. Longman explains his visit to Belize.
Jeré Longman, Sports Writer, New York Times
“So I came in from Rio today; I am here to watch Simone Biles, given that her mother is from Belize. So I came to watch her performance on Thursday in the women’s all around gymnastics championship with her family and to see how Simone is viewed in Belize. She is a popular athlete; she is the best gymnast in the world and we thought it would be fun to come and watch it with her family.”
“Simone is representing the U.S.A., but you are still tracking down that Belizean connection. What do you think might come from her story for Belizeans who might be watching?”
“Well I think it’s the story of the woman who may be the best gymnast of all time. I think her hope is that maybe her visibility in the end would sort of help, at some point…I think she wants to help develop sports in Belize—that not only to have her own career, but if she can to help athletes within Belize, which would be a great accomplishment I think. So the thing I really want to see is the home of her grandfather, Silas Cayetano, who was a teacher and senator. And it seems from everyone that I talked to, he was the one that stressed the importance of education; that education was the most important thing for you to do and that he expected everyone in the family to have some form of greatness. And so it sounds like Simone listened and it is a very prominent family, highly educated family. And obviously on the sporting side, Simone has achieved greatness as well.”