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Adopted Athletes Who Have Competed in the Olympics

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Adoption is much more common than you think, but due to the lack of representation in most media forms, save for shock value, adoption is still viewed as highly rare. Most people only have experience with families where the parents and children are biologically related, so it makes some sense that the idea of adoption is still viewed as some rather uncommon, though this is far from the truth. In fact, some very high profile people have been touched by adoption, either by adopting children themselves, or having been adopted. Whether these are actors, artists, or even athletes, people from all walks of life, even those in the media spotlight, have ties to adoption. With the 2016 Olympic Games ending in Rio, Brazil, it’s time to shed some light on Olympians, past and present, who have been adopted or participated in adoption.



Notable Olympians Who Were Adopted: Past and Present


Just four years ago during the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Reese Hoffa, competing for Team USA in Shot Put was one to join the ranks of adopted Olympians. A winner of the Bronze Medal at the last Summer Olympics, many fans and watchers were unaware of his journey from an orphan to a full-fledged Olympian. Hoffa is not unique, however, as far as adopted Olympians go. In fact, over the span of the last few decades, there have been various Olympians who come from backgrounds where adoption was a prominent and important aspect of their life.


Some Olympians, like British Gold Medalist Tessa Sanderson, along with her former British Olympian husband, Densign White, have participated in adoption. Sanderson and White, at ages 58 and 52 respectively, adopted twin babies born eight weeks prematurely in 2014. Sanderson has been widely outspoken in recent months as she’s introduced her twins to the world through different media outlets, saying that the twins are her and her husband’s “world.”


By these two simple examples, anyone can see that adoption is more common than it is not, and should be viewed as a beautiful and heart-warming experience. The following individuals, though they came from muddled or difficult background and childhoods, are living proof that parents and children do not have to be blood to be family.


Adopted Olympians


  • Simone Biles: A competitor for the coming 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Biles is an amazing gymnast who comes from a colorful background that includes adoption. The 19-year-old, who was one of eight children, went with three other siblings with her paternal grandparents, Ron and Nellie Biles, after her birth mother was unable to care for her. Though they were unable to adopt all four of the children they had taken in, the Biles adopted Simone at age 5 and her younger sibling, Adria, at age 3, while her other siblings were adopted by other family members.




  • Toby Dawson: An adoptee from South Korea, Dawson competed in the 2006 Winter Olympics. He used the publicity of the games to help him find his Birth Parents in Korea, and remains an adoption advocate who volunteers at the Korean Heritage Camp for Adoptive Families.



Source: Getty Images

  • Magic Johnson: Perhaps one of the more recognizable and notable names on the list, acclaimed basketball player Magic Johnson represented the USA in the 1992 Olympics as part of the famous gold-medal winning “Dream Team.” Today Johnson has several children, including an adopted daughter.


  • Jessica Long: A competitor in the Paralympic games in 2004, 2008, and 2012, Long is a swimmer who was adopted from Russia when she was just 13. Due to her fibular hemimelia, a serious condition that cost her her legs before she was two years old, Long has never competed in the Olympic games, though she has brought home gold, silver, and bronze, each time she has competed.


Source: Splash Magazine


  • Paige McPherson: McPherson is an Olympic taekwondo star who is also one of five adopted children. She competed in the 2012 Olympics as the youngest member on the Olympic taekwondo team.



  • Alonzo Mourning: A gold medalist for the US team at the 2000 Olympic games, Mourning spent time in foster care during his teen years. Mourning has been quoted in crediting his foster mother in helping him become who he is today.


This list is simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to adopted Olympians over the years. In fact, there are many athletes, Olympians and otherwise, who have been touched by adoption and made amazing names for themselves.




Featured Image Source: nghiem vo