Simone Biles' case of 'the twisties' is more than just mental block, gymnasts say
'It can be very dangerous' says 5-time Olympic medal gymnast Nastia Liukin
Prior to her withdrawal from the individual all-around final, Simone Biles cited a dreaded term known to gymnasts.
To the rest of the world, 'the twisties' are an unfamiliar term, but gymnasts understand what it is and the risk of competing with it.
It has often been described as having a mental block in the air, but unlike some sports where it may cost you a result, it could pose serious physical harm.
WATCH | Simone Biles discusses decision to put her mental health first:
"I think when you actually take a look at what happened on that vault — she got lost," said five-time Olympic medal gymnast Nastia Liukin, on NBC Olympics.
"And any gymnast knows — we call it the "twisties" — and basically she was supposed to do another whole rotation and got completely lost in the air. It's a mental error, essentially, that every single gymnast goes through.
"If you are not 100 per cent sure of yourself, and where you are in the air, it can be very dangerous."
After struggling on her opening vault in the women's team final, Biles exited the event citing mental health concerns.
WATCH | Morgan Campbell discusses Biles' withdrawal from women's artistic final:
Former gymnast Catherine Burns took to Twitter to further explain the twisties phenomenon.
Hi, your friendly neighborhood former gymnast and diver here to attempt to explain the mental phenomenon Simone Biles is experiencing: the dreaded twisties. 💀—@WittyNameChoice
Once you've practiced a trick enough, you develop the neural pathways that create kinesthesia which leads to muscle memory. Your brain remembers how your body feels doing the trick and you gain air awareness.—@WittyNameChoice
Suddenly, in the middle of driving on the freeway, right as you need to complete a tricky merge, you have totally lost your muscle memory of how to drive a car. You have to focus on making you foot press the pedal at the right angle, turn the steering wheel just so, shift gears..—@WittyNameChoice
The twisties are like this, and often happen under pressure. You're working so hard to get it right that you stop trusting your muscle memory. You're getting lost in the air, second guessing your instincts, overthinking every movement.—@WittyNameChoice
This isn't as easy to fix as just sleeping it off and hoping for a better day tomorrow. It can look like retraining entire routines and tricks. I never mastered my front 1.5 with a full twist because I'd get the twisties and it would mess with my other twisting dives.—@WittyNameChoice
I'll also add that <a href="https://twitter.com/Simone_Biles?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Simone_Biles</a> choosing to bow out pushes back against a dark narrative in gymnastics that you sacrifice yourself for the sake of the sport; you are the product of your coaches and you owe them wins, no matter the personal cost.—@WittyNameChoice
No. You owe nobody anything, and you especially don't owe them your body, your health, or your autonomy. I hope every single tiny baby gymnast got that message on self advocacy and setting boundaries loud and clear. Thank you, <a href="https://twitter.com/Simone_Biles?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Simone_Biles</a>.—@WittyNameChoice
A post from Former gymnast Jacoby Miles adds to how dangerous it can be.
A post from former gymnast Jacoby Miles on Instagram about how dangerous the "twisties" can be.<br><br>(TLDR: She broke her neck and is now paralyzed.)<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SimoneBiles?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SimoneBiles</a> made the smart and correct choice today. <a href="https://t.co/EkOeLfgd5J">pic.twitter.com/EkOeLfgd5J</a>—@Gymtertainment
As the 24-year-old American focuses on her mental health, with her future at Tokyo 2020 undecided, an outpouring of support has followed.
In our sport, we essentially dive into a pool w/ no water. When you lose your ability to find the ground—which appears to be part of <a href="https://twitter.com/Simone_Biles?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Simone_Biles</a> decision—-the consequences can be catastrophic. She made the right decision for the team & herself. <a href="https://twitter.com/bisping?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@bisping</a>—@Dmoceanu
All my support to <a href="https://twitter.com/Simone_Biles?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Simone_Biles</a>. Mental health is a key component of our health, and it MUST be a priority always. We need the sports world to focus on emotional and mental well-being a lot more.<br><br>Thank you for using your platform, you are a true champion! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MentalHealth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MentalHealth</a> <a href="https://t.co/4Ym3E9VAEf">pic.twitter.com/4Ym3E9VAEf</a>—@paugasol
WATCH | Simone Biles praises her teammates: