The 2020 Olympics are just a few days away. The Olympians have arrived in Tokyo and are anxiously awaiting their opportunity to compete in the world’s largest sports competition. Fans all over the world are ready to watch their favorite athletes compete for a gold medal. As we gear up for the Olympics, we will hear many stories of Olympians that have overcome great obstacles to be competing in the Olympics. Hearing background stories on the Olympians is one of my favorite parts about the Olympics. Olympians share with their fans the hard work and dedication it took to become an Olympian. Some even share about their families. Many of the athletes share a common theme: adoption. That’s right! Many of your favorite Olympians were adopted. As you listen to their stories, you will find that they all share the common theme of adoption, but their stories are different. Some came from orphanages in another country, while others were adopted from foster care in the United States. 

Which Olympians Were Adopted?

So you are probably wondering, which Olympians were adopted? There are several stories of Olympians that were adopted. There are swimmers, runners, gymnasts, and more! It is hard to name them all. Some may not even share their adoption story, but many do. You may hear about it through the athlete feature during the events, or you may read it in an article on the web. Wherever you hear it, you might be surprised that they had a rough background. You wouldn’t even know it to look at them today and see how successful they are. 

One of the current Olympians, Simone Biles, has talked about quite a bit in the media. Whether it is her newest stunt or her involvement in a scandal, you are sure to have heard of her. What you may not know is that Simone Biles was adopted by her grandparents when she was young. She has even shared her story, which you can read in this article. Simone Biles isn’t the first Olympian to be adopted. There are several others, and there will be more in the future. Paige McPherson, Scott Hamilton, and Lopez Lomong have all been adopted. You can read their stories as well. 

From Foster Care to Olympic Great

     At just 24 years of age, Simone Biles has become one of the world’s most famous athletes. Simone’s story didn’t begin like most athletes. Simone was born on March 14, 1997, in Columbus, Ohio, to a drug-addicted mother. Simone’s father was absent while her mother, Shannon Biles, struggled to provide a stable home for Simone and her three siblings. Biles remembers that her mother could not feed her children, but she could feed a stray cat.

Eventually, after neighbors reported their concerns, child services intervened. The sibling group of four was placed into foster care together. When they heard that their grandchildren had been placed in foster care, Ron and Nellie Biles decided to get involved. The sibling group was split up: Biles and her sister Adria went to Texas to live with their grandparents, and the older two were sent to live with Ron’s sister and her husband. In 2003, Ron and Nellie officially adopted the girls. This gave Biles and her sister a second chance at a stable but normal life. 

This second chance allowed her to discover gymnastics at a young age on a field trip and become the best gymnast of all time. Simone was preparing to compete in her second Olympics, hoping to achieve a gold medal for her team. Due to mental concerns, Biles pulled out of the individual competition, but it’s possible we may see her in other Olympic events. In an interview, she said that they would take it a day at a time. She is spending time giving herself a “mental rest.” While we won’t see her in the individual event, she did help her team take silver. 

Dusting Off and Pushing Forward

At 30 years old, Paige McPherson has goals. Before she turned 30 years old, she wanted to compete in three Olympics, but COVID delayed her just like everything else. She desired to make up for the Rio Olympics, where she lost in her opening fight. Despite this hardship, McPherson persisted. This hardship was nothing new to her. She just dusted herself off and pushed forward. 

Her life journey is far from easy. At just four days old, she was placed for adoption. Her mother, Shonna Nichols, could not care for Paige. With a drug-addicted husband and a 13-month old son, Nichols could not support two children. Dave and Susan McPherson stepped in to adopt little Paige. Paige joined the growing McPherson family. With four siblings, also adopted, Paige had a second chance at life. 

She learned to be confident in herself and didn’t care what other people thought. She began taking taekwondo with her brother and sister, where eventually, she began to compete. At just 12 years old, McPherson won a bronze medal at the Junior Olympics. She began training with Juan Moreno after high school, who became her coach. She has since competed in two Olympics and has already competed in her third Olympics, where she had dreamt of receiving a second Olympic medal. Unfortunately, McPherson “fell just shy” of achieving this dream, but she did finish in fourth place and is the only U.S. woman to ever compete in taekwondo in three Olympic games. 

Once a Lost Boy, Now an American 

36 years ago, in the village of Kimotong, Rita Namana and Awei Lomong gave birth to Lopepe Lomong. Six years later, Lopepe was abducted during the Second Sudanese Civil War and was held in captivity. His parents assumed he was dead, so he became a lost boy. Along with three others, Lopepe escaped captivity and crossed the border into Kenya, where he would join a refugee camp. While living at the refugee camp, he was given the nickname “Lopez,” which he decided to adopt as his official name. 

After spending ten years at the Kakuma Refugee Camp, he was moved to the United States through the Unaccompanied Refugee Minor Program. In 2001, he moved in with Robert and Barbara Rogers. After watching Michael Johnson in the 2000 Summer Olympics, Lopez became a runner. He ran cross country and track while in high school and college. In 2007, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. 

In 2008, he qualified for the Olympics, and he was honored to carry the U.S. flag during the Opening Ceremony. He also made it to the 2012 Olympics. He has never won an Olympic medal, but he has won some world championships. Lopez is still competing, but you won’t see him in this year’s Olympic events. His last competition was the World Championships in 2019, where he ended in 7th place. 

He continues to use his “powerful” feet to change the world. He began the Lopez Lomong Foundation, which has partnered with World Vision to bring hope and healing to his home country, Southern Sudan. He has written a book Running For My Life which chronicles his life from being a lost boy in South Sudan to a Two-Time Olympic Athlete. 

Sick Child Turned Gold Medal Figure Skater

63 years ago, a baby boy was born in Toledo, Ohio. Six weeks later, he was placed for adoption. Dorothy and Ernest S. Hamilton became his parents and named him Scott Scovell Hamilton. Scott Hamilton grew up in Bowling Green, Ohio, with an older sister and a younger birth. At two years old, he stopped growing after contracting a mysterious illness. He visited numerous doctors and tried numerous diets, but nothing worked. 

Eventually, the disease began to correct itself, yet the doctors were stumped. They could not figure out what was wrong with Scott. Years later, a congenital brain tumor was found to be the cause of his issues. 

In an attempt to live a normal life, Scott began figure skating. He began training at 13 years old and made his first Olympics in 1980. It wasn’t until the 1984 Olympics that he won a gold medal. He has won numerous figure skating championships and has received numerous honors, including being inducted into the United States Olympic Hall of Fame. 

He has battled numerous cancer diagnoses and endured several surgeries. Today, Hamilton lives in Tennessee with his wife and four children. He dedicates a lot of his time to fundraising for cancer research. He founded the Scott Hamilton CARES Foundation along with several educational and survivorship programs. He has written a couple of books, including a children’s book that honors his late mother’s cancer battle. 

Why Adopt?

With these success stories, you may be wondering if you should adopt. Well, it is entirely up to you. I can’t recommend that you adopt, but I also can’t tell you not to adopt. All I can do is share information with you. Just like everything else, there are pros and cons to adoption. 

The biggest pro to adoption is providing a child with a forever family. For the child who needs a stable, loving family, being adopted is a dream come true. As an adoptive parent, you get to experience the joy of raising a child as your own. Adoption may be your only chance of having a child if you are unable to have children of your own. Another pro to adopting is you may have the chance to help the birth mother with living expenses and other pregnancy-related expenses. Whether you consider this a pro or not, it would be nice to meet the birth mother of your child and build that relationship. 

Adoption does not come without its cons. The biggest con of adoption is the cost. Adoption is expensive. You may be paying for application fees, expenses for the birth mother, and even court costs. Don’t worry, though. There are many resources out there to help you fund your adoption. Another con you might want to consider is any challenges you may face. Maybe you are adopting an older child or teenager. You will want to remember that they have faced trauma in the past and may exhibit challenging behaviors. There are support groups available for this. The last thing that you want to consider is the waiting time. The process for adoption is not quick. It takes a lot of time. Waiting can be very hard but know that a child specifically for your family is just waiting to be adopted. 

Types of Adoption 

Before you dive into adoption, you need to remember that there are different types of adoption. Our Olympians all have different stories. Some were adopted internationally, and some were adopted by family members. 

Simone Biles was adopted by her grandparents after spending some time in foster care. This would be considered a kinship adoption or relative adoption. In this type of adoption, a relative of the child undergoes court proceedings to obtain legal custody of the child. Biological parents still have the ability to see their children but do not have legal rights. In Simone’s situation, the birth mom was asked by the grandfather not to remain in their lives. 

Paige Mcpherson and Scott Hamilton were both adopted through domestic infant adoption. This adoption occurs when a birth mother consents legally to adoption, and an adoptive family is chosen either by the birth mother or by an agency. 

Lopez Lomong’s story is different. Lomong came to the United States as an Unaccompanied Refugee Minor. He is considered to be adopted but not legally. In the article on adopting a Refugee Orphan, the author states that a refugee orphan cannot be adopted. The author further says that the UNHCR has developed a policy that says that “in an emergency context, refugee children are not available for adoption.” In Lomong’s situation, he was not available for adoption; however, a family in the United States took him in as a foster child. In a sense, he was “adopted” by this family. They became his family, and he considers them as family. 

Are You Considering Adoption?

Are you considering adoption, or have you considered adoption before? Maybe you have already been through the process. Whatever your reason for reading this article, I hope it inspired you and has given you hope. 

Do you feel there is a hole in your heart that can only be filled by a child? We’ve helped complete 32,000+ adoptions. We would love to help you through your adoption journey. Visit or call 1-800-ADOPT-98.

Emili Schurke is the youngest of three children. She was adopted when she was three years old. She has a huge heart for adoption and foster care. She currently resides with her parents and assists with the children in their care. Emili holds a special place in her heart for children with special needs. She works as a special education paraprofessional while she is pursuing her Master’s in Teaching Special Education from Drury University. In 2018, she graduated with her Bachelors in Elementary Studies from College of the Ozarks, located in Point Lookout, Missouri. She is excited to share her adoption story with those around her.