After attempting her first skill at the women’s gymnastics team event, Simone Biles knew something was wrong. The 24-year-old gymnastics champion had attempted 2 ½ twisting vault but soon withdrew from the team events and later the all-arounds, citing issues with her mental health.
Biles told reporters that she “had no idea where I was in the air” and that she was “having a little bit of the twisties.”
The “twisties” is a condition that is well-known in the gymnastics world but those of us who aren’t four-time Olympic gold medalists like Biles may not be familiar with what it is or how serious it can be.
The twisties occur when a gymnast loses their place in the air, putting them at risk for injuring themselves when they land. Simone explained that she was experiencing it and “could have hurt myself.”
Biles took to her Instagram stories to explain what she'd been dealing with in her own words.
Carly Patterson, gymnastics gold medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics told People a little more about what a gymnast experiences if they have the twisties.
“You basically start losing that air awareness,” Patterson said. “It is very, very scary, especially when you’re doing that difficult kind of skill that Simone is doing. [You] have no clue when you’re going to hit the ground and how you’re going to hit the ground.”
Biles talked about experiencing the twisties at other points in her career and as Patterson explained to People, you can’t plan for them to happen, they just do.
“Unfortunately it happened at the Olympic Games, it didn’t happen three months ago when she could fix it, work those kinks out, work that mental block out,” Patterson said. “You can’t do that in 24 hours, when you’re at the Olympic Games, and rework your brain through that to really overcome it in such a short time.”