Olympic gymnast Simone Biles has had a supportive family behind her throughout her years as an elite athlete — but it is a little unconventional than most. The Texas native was raised by her grandparents, who became her adoptive parents after her biological mother, Shanon Biles, gave her and her three siblings up for adoption in 2000 amid her drug and alcohol addiction. Simone’s biological father, Kelvin Clemons, was never in the world champion‘s life.
“When we signed the [adoption] papers, it was like my dad flipped a switch on me,” Shanon told The Daily Mail in a 2016 interview. “No communication, don’t call, and don’t visit. That’s how it was at the beginning.”
The Ohio resident added, “It took me six years before I saw my children again. I was respecting my dad to let the kids transition, he felt that was the best thing for them. It was hard to give up my kids, but I had to do what I had to, I wasn’t able to care for them. I was still using, and he didn’t want me coming in and out of their lives when I wasn’t right.”
After years of being estranged — Simone’s grandfather, Ronald Biles, and his wife, Nellie, adopted her and her younger sister, Adria, when Simone was 6 years old — the SK-II spokeswoman and her biological mother mended fences before she went to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. “When I talk to Simone, it’s a brief conversation, like, ‘I miss you, I love you, I can’t wait to see you, I’m proud of you, I’m watching. You go girl,'” Shanon told the outlet. “It’s never anything personal. I want to tell her what really happened when I was younger, but I keep on waiting for the right time.”
“There’s a lot of stuff I want to talk to Simone about, but I’ve been respecting [Ron and Nellie],” Shanon explained further. “I feel like I have no rights. They were raising her, working with her, doing this and that. And who am I? I’m outside looking in. Even though I’m her biological mom, I have to respect them.”
Shanon wasn’t able to attend Simone’s stunning performance in Rio — but she was cheering her daughter on from her home in Ohio, where she lives with her two youngest children and is sober. “I couldn’t afford it and it’s a lot of pressure for her,” the proud mother revealed to the outlet following the games. “You always have a bond with your child but with us not growing up together, I don’t want to make her nervous, get her out of character. I’m just here, yelling, ‘Go Simone!’ at the TV.”
As for Simone’s father — who also lives in Ohio — Shanon still speaks to him on occasion, and they usually discuss how well their daughter is doing. “He just called me Sunday. I said, ‘I’m watching Simone, are you watching her? Are you watching her? Call me back later,'” she told the outlet of Kelvin’s response to Simone’s Rio performance. “He knows that’s his daughter and he’s very proud of her.”