Simone Biles knew she had to withdraw because she had the ‘twisties’

2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

On Tuesday, Simone Biles had a bad vault. It was the worst vault of her Olympic career. Immediately afterwards, she left the floor with her coach and some Team USA officials and shortly after that, we learned that Simone was withdrawing from the group competition. Then yesterday, we learned that Simone would not compete in the all-around competition. The reason given was Simone’s mental health, the stress of being the face of Team USA and primetime Olympic coverage. All of that is true and real, but as Simone did extensive media this week, she also described what happened to her on that vault: the twisties. She was in the air and she didn’t know where she was.

Imagine flying through the air, springing off a piece of equipment as you prepare to flip on one axis while twisting on another. It all happens fast, so there’s little time to adjust. You rely on muscle memory, trusting that it will work out because, with so much practice, it usually does. But then suddenly you’re upside down in midair and your brain feels disconnected from your body. Your limbs that usually control how much you spin have stopped listening, and you feel lost. You hope all the years you spent in this sport will guide your body to a safe landing position.

When Simone Biles pushed off the vaulting table Tuesday, she entered that terrifying world of uncertainty. In the Olympic team final, Biles planned to perform a 2½-twisting vault, but her mind chose to stall after just 1½ twists.

“I had no idea where I was in the air,” Biles said. “I could have hurt myself.” Biles, who subsequently withdrew from the team competition and then the all-around final a day later, described what went wrong during that vault as “having a little bit of the twisties.”

The cute-sounding term, well-known in the gymnastics community, describes a frightening predicament. When gymnasts have the “twisties,” they lose control of their bodies as they spin through the air. Sometimes they twist when they hadn’t planned to. Other times they stop midway through as Biles did. And after experiencing the twisties once, it’s very difficult to forget. Instinct gets replaced by thought. Thought quickly leads to worry. Worry is difficult to escape.

“Simply, your life is in danger when you’re doing gymnastics,” said Sean Melton, a former elite gymnast who dealt with the twisties throughout his career. “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 twisties are essentially like the yips in other sports. But in gymnastics, the phenomenon affects the athletes when they’re in the air, so the mind-body disconnect can be dangerous, even for someone of Biles’s caliber.

[From The Washington Post]

I found this explanation helpful, and apparently gymnasts around the world and at the games understood immediately. The idea of your muscle memory failing you mid-air creates so much doubt, and that creeping doubt can lead to severe injury for gymnasts.

In addition to all of this, please don’t forget that Biles is still competing for the US Gymnastics team at the age of 24 largely because she knows her presence and name will make it harder for officials to sweep the Larry Nassar issue under the rug. Biles has always been about accountability and she’s the last Nassar victim still competing on Team USA. WaPo also pointed out that Simone is still learning new details about the complicity of US Gymnastics officials for years and years, and it’s still ongoing.

2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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76 Responses to “Simone Biles knew she had to withdraw because she had the ‘twisties’”

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  1. Steph says:

    First: the pic with her hands on her head is so adorable. She looks so tiny.

    Anyway, I kept reading ppl day she had the twisties. So I asked what it was. Great description on my Twitter. It not only sounds terrifying but extremely dangerous. Like loss of life dangerous. I’m so happy she pulled out. She has nothing more to prove as an athlete but has so much potential for the rest of her life.

    • Hyperbolme says:

      I’m taking this from a Facebook post, and I almost bet this isn’t the person who posted it that wrote all this, they might have got it from somewhere else. But its a good story and encapsulates why Simone’s decision was the right one:

      “This realization I had about Simone Biles is gonna make some people mad, but oh well.Yesterday I was excited to show my daughters Kerri Strug’s famous one-leg vault. It was a defining Olympic moment that I watched live as a kid, and my girls watched raptly as Strug fell, and then limped back to leap again.

      But for some reason I wasn’t as inspired watching it this time. In fact, I felt a little sick. Maybe being a father and teacher has made me soft, but all I could see was how Kerri Strug looked at her coach, Bela Karolyi, with pleading, terrified eyes, while he shouted back “You can do it!” over and over again.

      My daughters didn’t cheer when Strug landed her second vault. Instead they frowned in concern as she collapsed in agony and frantic tears.

      “Why did she jump again if she was hurt?” one of my girls asked. I made some inane reply about the heart of a champion or Olympic spirit, but in the back of my mind a thought was festering: \She shouldn’t have jumped again**

      The more the thought echoed, the stronger my realization became. Coach Karolyi should have gotten his visibly injured athlete medical help immediately! Now that I have two young daughters in gymnastics, I expect their safety to be the coach’s number one priority. Instead, Bela Karolyi told Strug to vault again. And he got what he wanted; a gold medal that was more important to him than his athlete’s health. I’m sure people will say “Kerri Strug was a competitor–she WANTED to push through the injury.” That’s probably true. But since the last Olympics we’ve also learned these athletes were put into positions where they could be systematically abused both emotionally and physically, all while being inundated with “win at all costs” messaging. A teenager under those conditions should have been protected, and told “No medal is worth the risk of permanent injury.” In fact, we now know that Strug’s vault wasn’t even necessary to clinch the gold; the U.S. already had an insurmountable lead. Nevertheless, Bela Karolyi told her to vault again according to his own recounting of their conversation:”

      I can’t feel my leg,” Strug told Karolyi.

      “We got to go one more time,” Karolyi said. “Shake it out.”

      “Do I have to do this again?” Strug asked.

      “Can you, can you?” Karolyi wanted to know.

      “I don’t know yet,” said Strug. “I will do it. I will, I will.”

      The injury forced Strug’s retirement at 18 years old. Dominique Moceanu, a generational talent, also retired from injuries shortly after. They were top gymnasts literally pushed to the breaking point, and then put out to pasture. Coach Karolyi and Larry Nassar (the serial sexual abuser) continued their long careers, while the athletes were treated as a disposable resource.

      Today Simone Biles–the greatest gymnast of all time–chose to step back from the competition, citing concerns for mental and physical health. I’ve already seen comments and posts about how Biles “failed her country”, “quit on us”, or “can’t be the greatest if she can’t handle the pressure.” Those statements are no different than Coach Karolyi telling an injured teen with wide, frightened eyes: “We got to go one more time. Shake it out.”

      The subtext here is: “Our gold medal is more important than your well-being.”

      Our athletes shouldn’t have to destroy themselves to meet our standards. If giving empathetic, authentic support to our Olympians means we’ll earn less gold medals, I’m happy to make that trade.

      Here’s the message I hope we can send to Simone Biles: You are an outstanding athlete, a true role model, and a powerful woman. Nothing will change that. Please don’t sacrifice your emotional or physical well-being for our entertainment or national pride. We are proud of you for being brave enough to compete, and proud of you for having the wisdom to know when to step back. Your choice makes you an even better example to our daughters than you were before. WE’RE STILL ROOTING FOR YOU!”

      • Hyperbolme says:

        (in re-reading this, I think it could be dismissed
        by detractors as highly “adjective-editorialized” but the point stands. See also: calling people heroes so you can feel good about putting them through hell. If we celebrate and normalize the struggle there’s no incentive to fix things. One lady I know got a comparative coin from her hospital for working through Covid. It beggars belief. A coin!!)

      • kimmy says:

        I’m 36 years old and remember that moment VIVIDLY in 1996. Ive seen this post too and dang, its makes you see that situation in a whole new light.

        Ugh and the fact that she was treated by Nasser afterwards…makes me sick!

      • Miranda says:

        I was born in 1992, and like every other little girl in America, I got interested in gymnastics during the ’96 games. I know so many gymnasts, myself included, for whom Kerri Strug’s vault was the inspirational moment that caused us to demand our parents sign us up. Looking back, though, I’m obviously appalled that she was FORCED to do that. I was also obsessed with Dominique Moceanu at the time, who eventually revealed that she, too, was abused by not only the Karolys (who are fucking nightmare people whose bullshit was tolerated for far too long), but her own parents. And of course we found out about the rampant sexual abuse a few years ago, during which some girls also spoke of physical and emotional abuse from their coaches,

        I’m sorry to say it, but the gymnastics community needs to acknowledge this ugly, toxic culture. Young men and women are sacrificing their bodies and the luxury of a normal youth and young adulthood to perform amazing feats and represent our country. We owe it to them to make sure they’re safe and physically AND mentally healthy. Most of all, people need to LISTEN AND BELIEVE when survivors have the courage to speak up.

    • Kelly says:

      I have vertigo and it’s terrifying when I have a spell and can’t tell up from down. I remember being in Vegas once when I got hit with it and trying to walk down those long Vegas hallways to my room was an absolute nightmare and I was in tears by the time I got into my bed. I can’t imagine going through that lost feeling while in the air. Simone is incredible and she definitely did the right thing.

  2. Lesley says:

    That must have been so scary!

    I don’t think I would have the bravery to have landed without injury. I certainly would not have been able to put into words how I felt at that split second after it happened.

    I feel Simone has taken it to another level with her courage. I’d love to meet her one day and tell her that.

    • SarahLee says:

      When you look at the still photos of her face as she landed, taking that big step forward, she looks terrified. Just terrified. She made the right decision for herself, and likely the right decision for the team as well. Her scores would not have been good and they might have fallen out of medal contention.

  3. Darla says:

    There was a poster here the day she dropped out of the team competition, speculating she did it to save herself for the individual medals, and how she was going to really get it if people realized that’s what she did. I thought to myself, wow, don’t people allow any grace in their thoughts about others? Leaping to the worst possible conclusion about the motives of another person? Unless their last name is Trump, in which case you’ve made a good bet, it just is so graceless to me. I hope Simone has everything she needs and I look forward to her future endeavors.

    • Larelyn says:

      BlindGossip has a post suggesting exactly that – she dropped the team so she could medal at the individuals. Am I too naïve to presume that most people are genuinely considerate of others first before selfish impulses kick in? The past six years have been a very depressing eye-opening period for me. I keep having to adjust my expectations of human nature, especially for the older generations. Maybe there is something to the boomer lead-poisoning conspiracies that are springing up…

      • Darla says:

        Oh so that’s probably where the poster got that crap from.

      • joanne says:

        Where did you get the information that all the criticism is coming from “boomers”? I haven’t seen ages mentioned in any news stories. Maybe lead poisoning isn’t limited to older generations.

      • The Blower’s Daughter says:

        That’s not “crap.” Simone said it herself — she wasn’t well enough for the team competition, but she’d be better by the time of the individual all-around. Maybe she was being hopeful, maybe she was being selfish, but that’s what she said.

      • Becks1 says:

        @Blower’s Daughter – the comment Darla was referring to was less about the mental aspect and more about the physical – like Simone was bowing out of the team competition bc she thought the individual was more important and this way she had time to rest and more time to prepare etc – so it was definitely with the spin that it was about Simone being selfish.

      • FancyPants says:

        Blind Gossip likes to do a thing where they make all the “clues” look like they’re pointing to a major celebrity and that person takes all the online heat for it, but their story is really about some minor person you never heard of. In this case, I believe that particular blind item is really about Australian basketball player Liz Cambage, who also withdrew citing mental health issues and has a history of actions that have upset her teammates, but the Blind Gossip people saw an opportunity to make it look like Simone Biles to get clicks.

      • SpankyB says:

        There’s going to be many a hard lesson when these “boomer” critics grow up.

      • Blind gossip is such a garbage MAGA site I refuse to give it clicks, First they started with all that Hillary crap, then they attacked my Meghan, and now this crap. I love blind items, but absolutely not.

    • sa says:

      “There was a poster here the day she dropped out of the team competition, speculating she did it to save herself for the individual medals, and how she was going to really get it if people realized that’s what she did.”

      Besides being uncharitable, a team competition is a *team* competition. It shouldn’t be all on her to carry them and so I don’t entirely get people attacking her even if she had been able to participate in the individual competition. And, as the other women on the team showed, they didn’t need her to carry them, they were amazing and won a silver medal.

    • Soupie says:

      @Darla

      “I thought to myself, wow, don’t people allow any grace in their thoughts about others?”

      Right. I saw a horrible tweet using Michael Jordan’s photo saying something about him pulling out of the last game of the championships (implying he’d never do that), and being snide about Simone. Clearly a clueless idiot, and unsympathetic as well. I wonder if that tweeter would have done the same thing if Simone were a man. And we don’t know what Michael Jordan would have done if he were injured or compromised in some way.

      • FancyPants says:

        Uhhh Michael Jordan dropped out of his whole basketball CAREER to play baseball, largely due to how he was dealing with the murder of his father, so whoever said that can sit right back down.

    • windyriver says:

      Simone tweeted last night – “The outpouring of love and support I’ve received has made me realize I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before.” Wonderful to hear that’s what’s been happening.

      But – that last sentence, about not believing she was more than her gymnastic accomplishments; if anyone remembers, that’s pretty much what Michael Phelps said was the big reason he went completely off the rails after his huge Olympic accomplishments. He didn’t know who he was outside of his celebrated swimming achievements. It’s one of the reasons he’s become a mental health advocate. How incredibly sad two such amazingly talented and exceptional individuals should still feel they’re nothing without what they can do in performance, but it should be a wake up call; what’s going on with the many other talented, and equally hard working, athletes at various levels, when they fail to measure up to their own standards, or those of the people around them?

      It’s an important part of the mental health discussion and I hope that at some future point, when she’s ready, Simone talks more about this.

      • Moxylady says:

        Again. Please everyone check out Nile Wilson. He is a retired Olympic gymnast who actively described the loss of purpose and the only sense of what you are. What you can accomplish as a gymnast. He has a documentary out about elite athletes and mental health.

      • Ms. says:

        And it’s a shame, too; she is an awesome person. I met her a long time ago, before she was famous, and she was so sweet. She is well respected by her friends and her teammates for so much more than her gymnastics.

        Literally no one has a bad thing to say about her in the gymnastics community, except things which have been said out of jealousy. Today, she was cheering for Angelina Melnikova of Russia SO LOUD (see the original stadium feed, not rhe NBC version) and was hyping up Suni when she got back to the hotel after her win. She is a good person. That matters more than ANY medal.

    • Truthiness says:

      There was a poster here 2 days ago who diminished Simone’s skills. She said that Simone was not turning in good performances anyway. Implying it wasn’t such a big loss. I pointed out that Simone had the HIGHEST scores of anyone on the planet during the team qualifiers. Jaded chimed in too. It just didn’t square with the facts. I am still a bit peeved that they call Simone’s issue a mental health problem, to me it is a medical issue. If your job entails hurtling yourself explosively through the air at significant heights, and your mind and body loses its place and its control, that to me is a medical issue of both mind and body.

      • stagaroni says:

        It’s ok to refer to it as mental health concern, it isn’t derogatory, and it has to do with her mental processes as a primary factor.

  4. Belli says:

    Good for her to withdraw when there is always so much pressure for athletes to push themselves beyond and risk injuring themselves to look “strong” or whatever.

    I have a friend who used to do national gymnastics and she guessed the twisties before Simone said it. Apparently it’s common, it’s terrifying and it’s so dangerous. At that level of the sport you have no margin for error at all.

    She really could have died and it’s a massive testament to her skill that she landed that vault the way she did.

    • paranormalgirl says:

      That can happen to divers as well. My boyspawn was a diver in high school and he was like “no wonder she pulled out. That really messes with your head.”

    • Moxylady says:

      Again Nile talks about thinking you are rotating and about to see the ceiling and it’s the floor and it’s coming at you way too fast. He laughed about it but also … there was a lot of respect for the twisters. Like your brain and your inner ear do this and that’s that. It’s not about your ability level.

    • Jen says:

      I’ve seen more than one comment on Twitter from gymnasts basically saying if it was anyone other than Simone Biles, they wouldn’t have even landed the vault. But she’s SO good, that she managed not to make it look like a big deal, until you actually look at the expression on her face when it was happening.
      Good for her for putting her health and safety first!

    • cleak says:

      In looking at all of this (especially on seeing posts from Dominique Moceaneu and an interesting new look at Kerry Strugg) I’m reminded of the story of Elena Mukahina. She was the great Olympic hope for her team’s gymnastics. She gets injured, the coaches pressure her back into training, before she’s fully healed and before she feels comfortable being back. Then they pressure her to practice a very very dangerous skill (one that is now banned) when she doesn’t feel comfortable only for her to fall in training, severing her spine at the neck and instantly rendering her paralysed from the neck down. Her first thought upon learning the extent of her injury was relief that she didn’t have to go to the Olympics.
      If a gymnast feels like they are not physically or mentally ready to perform, there can be real consequences and I’m glad Simone was given the autonomy to bow out where many before her couldn’t and had lasting injuries.

  5. L says:

    Go Simone!! Hope she’s getting support and love from the people closest to her. I can’t imagine the pressure she must be under.. Love her!

  6. Imogene says:

    I read a great thread on twitter from an elite gymnast that basically said if this had happened to her, she would have likely blown out a knee. A not so elite gymnast would have been paralyzed or died. That Simone was able to abort mid-air and land safely is another testament to her athleticism.

  7. Becks1 says:

    When she dropped out of the team competition, NBC had Aly Raisman on almost immediately and she talked about being “lost in the air” (saying she hadn’t spoken to Simone but that’s what she assumed happened) and she explained what it meant and it sounds terrifying, quite honestly. I find gymnastics scary in general because you have to have a strong sense of confidence in your abilities – I cant even do a cartwheel because I find the movement scary, like I don’t have the confidence to just go through with it. I can’t imagine the courage it takes to compete at this level. So anything that takes away from that courage and confidence – like the twisties – has to be terrifying and Simone obviously made the right choice for her safety and health.

    • Lightpurple says:

      I watched her vault live and one of the commentators said, as it was happening: “something is wrong, she looks lost in the air.” They showed the replay and he pointed at a second where her facial expression went blank, then confused, and her arm jerked out of position. Later that night, they brought Nastia Liuken onto the host segment to explain what it means and how dangerous it is.

      When we were kids, one of our neighbors competed on trampoline. He suffered the twisties and broke his neck. Fortunately, he survived and experienced no paralysis but he was in extremely serious condition for a month and his recovery took a very long time.

  8. Sigmund says:

    Honest question: can she sue the US Gymnastics higher ups for their enabling of Nasser? It’s just so infuriating to me to see no one held accountable for turning a blind eye to a predator harming young girls. I want to see heads roll, lol.

    • Kaiser says:

      If you read that WaPo story I linked to, they talk about the civil cases being brought against US Gymnastics and how the cover-up is still ongoing!

  9. kimmy says:

    I’m still just in awe of the GRACE AND STRENGTH she showed immediately after that scary vault. She was calm and collected (at least externally) as she walked with her trainer out of the gym, when she told her teammates, and then she just absolutely rallied on the sidelines with her supportiveness.

    A lesser person would have broken down after that happened. She’s an inspiration and an absolute BOSS.

    • Truthiness says:

      When I watched it unfold, Tim Daggett, ex-competitor, explained “lost in the air” while she was back in the training room. Strangely Simone came out and had her bar grips on, like as if she was suiting up to compete. Then the audio picked up much of what she was saying to the team, basically telling them she was out and they could do this without her. And she is well known for competing with injuries! She won Worlds one time with a kidney stone ffs. When she told the team that whatever they need, just ask her, and she will go get it for them, somebody must have been cutting onions at my house. It’s not surprising that EVERY athlete I saw who commented later backed Simone.

  10. MaryMae says:

    The worst comments, made by mostly men and majority white, have been awful. They really think they own Simone Biles, her body and her talent, and are using the opportunity to denigrate her. Lots of people are pushing back so there is hope for humanity, but some people are truly clueless and without redemption.

    • Red Dog says:

      It’s absolutely disgusting. I tried to report an article by Australia’s answer to Piers Morgan as harassment on FB, and of course that doesn’t go against community standards.

      She literally could have died.

    • Lightpurple says:

      Charlie Kirk, a white Supremacist who exists to despise and attack women, particularly women who report sexual assault, has doubled down on his hateful comments and his minions are all screaming that Kerri Strug, who was manipulated into performing an unnecessary vault on torn ankle ligaments in 1996, is the GOAT. Kerri and her teammate Dominique Moceanu both gave Simone strong support yesterday. Dominique, who competed on a fractured tibia and was put into the All Around to replace Kerri, released video showing herself smashing her head hard on the balance beam, completing her routine, and then being sent directly to the floor exercise without receiving any medical attention.

      • MaryMae says:

        Yeah I remember those Olympics. It was awful to watch. I’m sure Kerri is pissed that these jerks are using her name and her pain against Simone.

        I almost wish the entire gymnastics team would bow out of competing for the rest of the Olympics to show Simone support and as a finger to those jerks. It’s not fair to ask them to do so, because every single woman on that team deserves her time to shine, but they also have the right to look at every single one of their detractors with their head held high and say you could never do what any of us do.

    • AmyB says:

      Yes, it is very telling to me that most of the backlash and horrific comments are from white men. Piers Morgan (of course, he can’t shut his fucking mouth) said Biles had “let down your team-mates, your fans and your country.” He added that she was using mental health as an excuse. I’ve seen other white men say things like Biles is a “sociopath” HUH???? or how she is such a disappointment.

      I love how these non-athletes feel comfortable criticizing world class, Olympic athletes now??? LMAO. Please take several seats! As if any of these people know ANYTHING about what it takes to become an élite athlete at this level (Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka).

      I saw an interview with 23 Gold Medalist Olympian Michael Phelps – who knows something about the pressures of being the “face” of the USA Olympics. He eloquently said, with compassion and empathy for Simone, we need more mental health support for these athletes. Mind you, Phelps suffered from depression, and was suicidal after his 2012 Olympics. While these élite athletes seem super human to us, they are HUMAN!! Simone Biles is a phenomenal & extraordinary athlete and woman. AND a survivor from Dr. Larry Nasaar’s sexual abuse of many USA female gymnasts. She has a strength many do not have IMO. I am glad she was able to understand what is going on, and I think it might have something to do with being back to her first Olympics since her abuse from Nasaar, with many of the same people in place in USA gymnastics, that allowed that abuse to happen FOR SO LONG!!! She also doesn’t have her normal support system there; they are all isolated because of the pandemic. These factors are contributed I am sure!

      I was so happy and grateful to see Phelps support her. He’s one of the few who can understand the pressure she is under. 🙏 I hope all the support and love from people who understand and love her, drown out the assholes saying misogynist things.

      Anyone not supporting her, or worse, criticizing her, is garbage in my opinion – and has zero clue what it requires to be an élite athlete.

      • MaryMae says:

        Well said.

      • Lightpurple says:

        The sociopath comment came from Charlie Kirk. Kirk is a white supremacist and a misogynist. He spends his time screaming that any woman who says she was sexually assaulted is lying, unless she’s accusing a high profile Democrat. His regular attacks on Christine Blasey Ford (still!) are particularly vicious. He has been attacking women Olympians consistently and yes, he has been going after the Black women Olympians aggressively.

        As for “sociopath,” Kirk has spent the past year railing against any and all Covid restrictions and protections and against vaccines. He calls Covid the “China virus.” He organized over 80 buses for the January 6 terrorist attack, promising participants that it would be a day to change history. Numerous people on his buses have been arrested by the FBI with very serious charges, including the guy who was throwing fire extinguishers at cops and one of the bear spray guys.

      • AmyB says:

        @Lightpurple I only saw a clip of him saying that, but I had no clue who he was. Wow, what a lovely person – SAID no one ever LMAO!!! Yes, these are the people who support Donald Trump, and feel they can speak loudly and proudly now b/c of that Orange Nightmare. Go back under the rock you crawled out from under!

        I just find it F**KING hilarious when these men (who have no clue what it means to be an athlete of ANY kind) are criticizing world class, Olympic athletes. It just cracks me up to no end. I was a 12-time All American swimmer during my college years, and competed at the National level, so I have a clue what kind of hard work, and dedication these athletes go through. Year round, every day training for hours on end. But, they are OLYMPIC athletes, and I am in awe of them!!! So, these asshole men saying anything is completely pathetic to me. But then again, that is the essence of them – PATHETIC.

      • Truthiness says:

        Piers got hilarious pushback on Twitter. “Wait aren’t you the guy who quit his job when the Weatherman didn’t agree with you?” Then they posted the gif of him storming off the set. Lmao he really set himself up for that one.

  11. Cee says:

    Mental health is enough of a good reason to withdraw but the twisties sound terrifying. I’ve had something similar happen to me due to issues with my cervical and vertigo, and not knowing where you stand physically, literally, is one of the most terrifying things I’ve experienced and I wasn’t flying mid-air at high speed.

  12. Gold ladder says:

    I had mentioned in another comment that some people on Twitter had speculated that it was the gymnastics equivalent of the Yips (think of it like a baseball player suddenly unable to throw accurately or a golfer suddenly shanking his putts). Except for gymnasts, the consequences of a poorly timed double somersault are much more dire than a bad putt.

    She looked very off in prelims and that vault in finals was just so uncharacteristic that if I had been the coach, I would have pulled Simone if she hadn’t withdrawn herself.

  13. Merricat says:

    No time for those who would bash this young woman. We know what kind of jerk you have to be to do such a thing.

  14. Scal says:

    I was a diver (not elite but HS) and I got the twistes in the middle of a meet. It was like all of a sudden not being able to tell up from down. Not knowing where you are.

    This was only the 3m springboard and I hit the water horizontally. Apparently I kicked out early and had no idea. I got away with bruises down my entire side (water is HARD), and felt lucky. I can’t imagine having that midair in a vault like that.

  15. lucy2 says:

    The yips are acceptable for men in various sports, but of course Simone is held to an impossible standard.
    I’m a huge fan of hers, love watching her perform, and she was the only reason I was watching the Olympics – and I’m so glad she withdrew. Her health and her safety come first, and I’m so happy she recognized that and did what she needed to do, and didn’t let anyone pressure her into continuing.
    In support of Simone, Dominique Moceanu posted a terrifying clip of herself landing on her head on the balance beam many years ago, and said she was never examined by a doctor after, and was forced to do a floor routing just minutes later.

    • Lightpurple says:

      Dominique’s situation was outrageous. She was competing in that event because Kerri Strug had to drop out of the All Around when she tore ankle ligaments on the vault before the famous unnecessary vault to team victory. Dominique herself, 14 years old, was competing on a fractured tibia and after she smashed her head and neck on the balance beam, they not only ignored that she might be injured, they sent her right over to perform the floor exercise.

      Dominique tried to bring attention to the abuse back in the mid-90s and people ignored her.

  16. Sakura says:

    All these idiots talking smack about Simone could NEVER do what she does or accomplish what she has. For that, they need to take ALL the seats.

  17. Moxylady says:

    Simone is a goddess. I will take no criticism of her in any regard. I love her more now that she was so courageous in pulling herself from the Olympics due to something so serious but that would likely be misunderstood by 95% of people. She is a hero.

  18. Aud says:

    She’s also competing without her support system in place. Her parents seem very involved and supportive but can’t be there due to covid. I’m sure that’s not helping her mentally.

  19. Case says:

    This sounds really scary — kinda like the “yips” in other sports, but more dangerous. I’m glad she pulled out; it teaches everyone an important lesson that your mental health and safety should come before all else, even professional accomplishments.

    I can’t believe how much whining and complaining about her “quitting” I’ve seen on social media. She’s an amazing athlete. She has nothing to prove, and doesn’t need to risk her life to win a medal. Much respect to her for having boundaries and knowing when to say no to something. Not only is she in Tokyo without her usual support system, but ya know…these last two years have been freaking hard! We all need to go easier on ourselves than I think many of us are willing to admit.

    • Rocķy says:

      The Canadian commentot freaked out once he figured out what happened. He said his heart was pounding because it was so dangerous and scary.

  20. Sarah B says:

    I was watching the NBC commentary on women’s gymnastics on Monday (I think) when Biles was doing the vault. The female commentator was very quiet when Simone did her first vault and she said in a shocked way, “it looked like she got…lost in her turn.” Like she knew what was happening–the twisties– and was really concerned.

    • lucy2 says:

      I think the female commentator is usually Nastia Liukin, a former Olympic gymnast, so I’m sure she recognized it right away.

    • Eurydice says:

      Yes, both Nastia and Tim Daggett realized right away what had happened. As a former gymnast, I think that it’s a bit of a misnomer to call it “mental issues.” The mind and body are connected, the brain drives the body. People ignore the mental component because they see the body performing amazing skills, but they don’t think about all the aspects of an athlete that combine to make those skills happen.

      • M says:

        I agree, the twisties is more of a mental block. It is good that all this info is coming out and helping people to understand the extreme skill and risk top gymnasts have to contend with.

  21. Willow says:

    What Simone does, what all elite athletes do, is just amazing. But the only person who is going to get injured or die if she screws up, is herself. If she drops out, no one on her team is in danger. Unlike firefighters, police, military, medical teams, athletes do not have other people’s lives in their hands. And yet, people act like the world comes crashing down because a vault doesn’t get jumped, a tennis match doesn’t get played, or a basketball team has one less player.
    So, all this criticism she’s getting for doing what safest and best for her is ridiculous.

  22. The Voice says:

    What I find amusing is a portion of America is berating her for dropping out of the team competition and not doing enough for her country. She doesn’t owe anyone anything. Especially a country where she’s probably not been treated fairly because she’s a woman of color. F that. She knew her priorities. I admire her choosing her mental and physical health over a competing for a medal. Rest and get it for yourself. Hope she medals in the individuals and still gets that endorsement money.

    • Meghan says:

      I’ve been unfriending people for their comments on Simone Biles. One was all upset at how much her daughter looks up to Simone and how she now has to tell her daughter that Simone quit. No, she prioritized her mental and physical health and withdrew which took an insane amount of courage and I would be HONORED to explain that to my son except he is 4 and does not give a crap about the Olympics.

      And as I have been raging for this entire Olympics- SOMETIMES OTHER ATHLETES ARE BETTER THAN US. We don’t have to win gold all the damn time. Us getting silver in the team event means….??? What for the USA? Were we going to get tourism dollars or something if we had won gold and now we won’t?

    • paddingtonjr says:

      Even the TX deputy governor called her an embarassment! Seriously?! Simone has nothing to prove to us and there is life after the Olympics. She needs to take care of herself and do what’s right for her, for whatever reasons. I hope she is okay and knows that there are many of us rooting for her, in and out of gymnastics.

      • Sarah B says:

        Wait, what? I’m in Texas (I work at the Capitol) and I don’t know who you’re referring to as the “deputy governor”. Could you give me the name?

      • Ms. says:

        Aaron Reitz.

      • Sarah B says:

        Ohh okay. He’s the deputy attorney general. Our actual attorney general is a whack and has been under indictment for six years. What a great state.

  23. Katie says:

    Why don’t they just change gymnastics to be safer? Put the damn practice foam pit at the end of it. I’m tired of us humans risking others for our entertainment. The most impressive part happens in the air, I don’t care about them landing it, which implies some won’t land it and get seriously hurt.

  24. Murphy says:

    That sounds so scary, I’m glad she avoided further injury.

  25. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I don’t finish reading negative comments about Simone. Anywhere. She’s phenomenal. A once-in-a-generation (or two) type prodigy. Then layer the years of commitment, sexual abuse from Mr. Necessary Evil, becoming the face of American Olympics, living up to and beyond everyone’s expectations, and being inundated with millions of opinions, texts, posts, tweets, articles and videos 24/7. I bow to her greatness. I bow to her strength. I bow to her womanhood, and I bow to her as a superior mind-bending athlete. I occasionally have vertigo. If it kicks in while I’m sauntering to the fridge for an iced tea refill, I stop, drop, roll into fetal position and start sucking my thumb and whimpering. Give this warrior woman credit and let her do whatever she needs to do.

  26. Ana170 says:

    I just came here from Yahoo’s home page where a sportswriter waxed on about how Simone “failed as a gymnast”. He, of course, makes it sound like she just couldn’t handle the pressure and therefore was a failure, unlike Michael Jordan, blah, blah, blah. He conveniently omits that she said she had the twisties. She’s been saying it over and over since she withdrew. Biles has proven time and again that she can handle levels stress most people can’t even fathom but being unable to tell the ceiling from the floor isn’t something you can will yourself through. She could have been left paralyzed or dead if she’d tried to keep going. She could have hurt the team’s chance to medal. This conversation, like most conversations about black women in the spotlight, has gone way past tiresome. Just let her be. I wish these people, who don’t know what they’re talking about would just enjoy the silver team, and gold all-around medals that are coming home anyway and stop talking about Simone.

  27. Jess says:

    That sounds absolutely TERRIFYING

  28. Trillion says:

    I do wish there were a better way to phrase this than “The twisties”. Of course, like any reasonable person, I deeply respect Biles’ decision. I just think the semantics are unfortunate.

  29. Mimi says:

    I won’t lie when I first read she withdrew I’m like WHAT? but then I read about why and the twisties and I actually applaud her for backing out. Mental health and physical health is number one. I watched the Kerri strug video of her injury at the Olympics and it was awful to watch…. All bc she didn’t have a say in HER life and HER body. There’s more important things in life than a medal.