Simone Biles Explains 'The Twisties' After Withdrawing from Competition at Olympics

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJuly 30, 2021

USA's Simone Biles applauds as she attends the artistic gymnastics women's all-around final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre in Tokyo on July 29, 2021. (Photo by Loic VENANCE / AFP) (Photo by LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)
LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images

Team USA star Simone Biles provided further explanation of her decision to withdraw from multiple events at the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Through her Instagram account, Biles shared a video and detailed what "twisties" are for gymnasts:

Kimberley A. Martin @ByKimberleyA

On her IG stories, Simone Biles responds to people who think she “quit” on her team by explaining the “the twisties” she’s been experiencing and what it feels like “not having your mind and body in sync” …. <a href="https://t.co/79hN973rkd">pic.twitter.com/79hN973rkd</a>

CNN's Elle Reeve explained the issue as a point when "suddenly a gymnast is no longer able to do a twisting skill she’s done thousands of times before."

Biles voluntarily removed herself from the team competition during the event as the United States went on to win silver. She subsequently withdrew from the individual all-around competition as well.

USA Gymnastics said she was choosing "to focus on her mental health," and the 24-year-old indicated to reporters she was "having a little bit of the twisties."

Experiencing a mental block at inopportune times isn't uncommon for professional athletes. While not a direct parallel to Biles' situation, the "yips" is perhaps the most frequently used word to refer to a stretch when an athlete is unable to perform something they've done over and over again. 

For Biles and other gymnasts, the "twisties" can be an issue with potentially significant consequences.

"Simply, your life is in danger when you’re doing gymnastics," former gymnast Sean Melton told the Washington Post's Emily Giambalvo. "And then when you add this unknown of not being able to control your body while doing these extremely dangerous skills, it adds an extreme level of stress. And it’s terrifying, honestly, because you have no idea what is going to happen."

The risk of bodily injury is obvious when an athlete is flipping through the air and loses his or her bearings. If Biles didn't think her focus was there, then bowing out altogether was the obvious choice to make.