Story at a glance

  • Gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics due to a medical issue ahead of the finals.
  • During a press conference after the event, she revealed that she was suffering from the “twisties.”
  • The mental condition occurs when the body and mind become disconnected, posing a danger to athletes.

After withdrawing from the all-around team and individual finals due to a medical issue, gymnast Simone Biles is speaking out about a condition called the "twisties" that is putting her health and her Olympic performance at risk. 

In a video posted to her Instagram story that was deleted shortly afterwards, Biles revealed the extent of the condition, which she said is occurring during every event. The gymnast is the first woman since 1992 to qualify for all four event finals, but it is unclear whether she will compete this weekend. 

"I don’t think you realize how dangerous this is on hard/competition surface," Biles wrote on Instagram. "Sometimes I can’t even fathom twisting. I seriously cannot comprehend how to twist."


READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA

SIMONE BILES REVEALS REASONS FOR WITHDRAWAL FROM OLYMPICS COMPETITION

OLYMPIC GYMNASTS FIGHT SEXUALIZATION WITH UNITARDS

OLYMPICS BROADCASTER APOLOGIZES FOR ‘INEXCUSABLE’ IMAGES OF MANY COUNTRIES

OLYMPICS SUDDENLY REVERSES BAN ON SHOWING ATHLETES IN RACIAL PROTESTS


More dangerous than the name might bely, the so-called twisties occur when the mind and body become disconnected. For gymnasts, who rely on muscle memory while twisting through the air at high speeds and heights, that loss of control threatens their ability to fall back to the ground safely. 

On Instagram, she described the feeling, saying "[you] literally can not tell up from down. It’s the craziest feeling ever. Not having an inch of control over your body. What’s even scarier is since I have no idea where I am in the air I also have NO idea how I’m going to land, or what I’m going to land on. Head/hands/feet/back."

During the all-around team finals, Biles planned to perform a 2.5-twist vault — but 1.5 twists in, she stopped midway. 


America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news.


"For non-gymnasts, the fact that she balked mid-air and accidentally did a 1.5 on her first vault instead of a 2.5 is a big deal. It's terrifying. She could have been severely injured getting lost in the air like that. The fact she somehow landed on her feet shows her experience and is incredible," wrote one gymnast in a post that Biles reshared online. "The margin for error on a skill like that is insanely low. A very small wrong move and career-ending or, even worse, life-threatening injuries can occur."

In the past, Biles said it has taken two or more weeks to recover from the condition, but added that it is "something you have to take literally day by day, turn by turn."

Her decision to withdraw put the subject of mental health, especially of athletes, on the international stage. While she received support from many fellow athletes and fans online, some — including members of the conservative media — criticized her. But as several experts noted, mental health takes on particular importance in gymnastics, where one wrong move could cost an athlete not just their career, but their life. 


READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA

IRISH GYMNAST TESTS OLYMPICS’ ‘ANTI-SEX’ BEDS

TOKYO’S COVID-19 CASES REACH SIX-MONTH HIGH, ONE DAY FROM OLYMPICS

OLYMPICS CHAOS: DIRECTOR OF OPENING CEREMONIES SUDDENLY FIRED FOR HOLOCAUST JOKE

OLYMPICS ATHLETES FIGURING OUT HOW TO COMPETE IN HOTTEST GAMES EVER

USA WOMEN’S GYMNASTICS TO SKIP STAY IN OLYMPIC VILLAGE


 

Published on Jul 30, 2021