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Dec 22, 2016

Simone Biles is Here and Warmly Welcomed

Hundreds of Belizeans gathered today to get a glimpse and take pictures of the world’s best female gymnast Simone Biles. The famed athlete who won five medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics, including the gold medal for best all-around gymnast, is in Belize for about a week during the holidays to catch up on a much needed break, following a whirlwind of tours, media appearances and official visits. She is here courtesy of the BTB – in a publicity move the BTB issued Biles an invitation following her outstanding performance at the Olympics over the summer. Biles responded that she will take up the offer. She holds a Belize passport and has been a dual citizen for about two years now. News Five was at today’s welcoming press conference and our intern Maria Reneau has the highlights:


Maria Reneau, Reporting

It was full pump and circumstance for Simone Biles. She was met and greeted by government officials at the Philip Goldson Airport and escorted down to the Biltmore Hotel for a press conference. The usually chipper five-time Olympic medalist shared what she loves about Belize and the things she is looking forward to- those include fishing and some rice and beans.


Simone Biles

Simone Biles, Olympic Gold Medalist

“I do go fishing. Belize is the only place where I fish. I don’t really fish back at home because I think it is special to come here and fish. It is something we’ve always done ever since I was a little girl whenever we used to come here.”



“Favourite foods?”


Simone Biles

“Uhmm…oh yeah, that is my favourite. Rice and Beans. It’s my favourite and my mom makes it back home too so.  I think it’s time for a vacation so that is why we came down here with the family to spend time with it. Uhm…and then maintain my body shape and everything, we went on tour right after the Olympics and it was for like two months and we were still working out on the tour and doing shows, but since then I’ve kind of had a break on my body and I’m gonna take some time off of gymnastics before I start back into it.”



“Now if you look at your time here will you get out to indulge as you wish?”


Simone Biles

“Yes, yes.”



“You’re not travelling with a fitness coach?”


Simone Biles

“I’m by myself, so that’s good.”


Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia says that Biles’ connection with and love for Belize prompted them to offer her a free vacation – one that she readily accepted.


Manuel Heredia Jr.

Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism

“Despite her soaring aspirations and glorious achievement, Simone still took out the time to remind not only her family and friends, but indeed the world of her Belizean connection blessed Belize even higher on the world stage. As a result we at the Ministry of Tourism and Belize Tourism Board saw it only fit to extend an invitation to Simone and the Final Five after the Rio Olympics concluded, not only celebrate their historic accomplishment this pass year but also for them to truly experience the Belizean lifestyle and even better now the Belizean Christmas. Imagine our excitement when Simone replied accepting our invitation with a response of: “My second home, you better Belize we are coming.”


And once she arrived she wasn’t short on words of wisdom foryoung Belizeans. As the author of a new book about her life, she says it’s important for each person to tell his or her own story, and that the road to success comes with its challenges.


Simone Biles

“I would say to never give up. And I know that there will be hard days, some harder than others, but you can always push through it and it’s amazing how mind over matter is. It is pretty crazy how strong your mind can be when you put yourself and say you wanna do something and then you can achieve it.”


Andrea Polanco

“You recently released Courage to Soar, talk to us a little bit about that and why was it important to you to tell your story in your book.”


Simone Biles

“I think it was important to inspire other kids that they read my story, they can do anything just like I said that as a kid; but other than that, I thought it was different how everyone told my story for me so I thought it was a very good idea for me to tell it myself and for them to read and to just hear it from me because I think that’s the most important rather than everyone telling it for me.”


Andrea Polanco

“If a Belizean child should read your book, what do you plan for her to take away from that?”


Simone Biles

“That even professional or elite athletes, we all go through something in our life even though it doesn’t seem like it because we are successful but we still have bumps in the road too as well.”


A member of Biles’ welcoming party was Deputy PM and Minister of Education and Sports Patrick Faber. He says that Biles should be an inspiration for the entire country, despite that some quarters are not receptive of the nation’s response to Biles.


Patrick Faber

Patrick Faber, Minister of Education and Sports

“There are times for instance when Belizeans at home frown on Belizeans who are living abroad as having left Belize an in fact they contribute very little, when we know this isn’t the case all the time. A lot of us depend on remittances from abroad. I say this to point out that the contributions of our Belizeans living abroad is as important to Belize’s development as is the contribution that each of us who live in Belize make on a daily basis and that should never be discounted. I will tell you even though she doesn’t reside here, she’s Belizean and more Belizean than some of us who live in the Belize which is the case, you know that. So let’s give her family, and her, a round of applause.  You are a star for everybody else but for us here you are an extremely bright, shining star, an inspiration to many of our young people. And I want to tell you there are some people who will have a few negative things to say, let us deal with that. I have been watching on Facebook: Oh the people who are local here, and this that, we don’t do this that. Listen as I’ve said we are Belizean, no matter where we are.”


And Biles knows this all too well. She says that while the opportunities and successes are blessings,sometimes it can get overwhelming. A day ago she tweeted that she has been feeling emotional lately – it’s due to all the attention.


Simone Biles

“I guess it is just hard being in the limelight a lot and everyone is judging everything I do so sometimes I wish it wasn’t like that, because to me it’s just like I just went to the Olympics like it was my goal but I didn’t think it should be blown up as much as it did, so I kind of just wish it was a little on the down low but it’s fine. (laughs)”


Following a welcome reception at the Biltmore, a motorcade of local athletes, the BTB and other groups left off via the Philip Goldson Highway and made its way on to the Central American Boulevard, down Cemetery Road and into downtown Belize City and culminated at the Battlefield Park with a short program. Maria Reneau for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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