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Gymnastics

Simone Biles’ battle with ‘twisties’: What are they? How do they affect gymnasts?

The mental block known as “twisties” can happen at any time, and they hit so hard that not even the GOAT can run away from them.

Update:
The mental block known as “twisties” can happen at any time, and they hit so hard that not even the GOAT can run away from them.
LIONEL BONAVENTUREDiarioAS

The seven-time Olympic medalist paralyzed the world in 2021 when she withdrew from the team final and the women’s individual all-around at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Biles told reporters in 2021 that “coming to the Olympics and being the head star isn’t an easy feat,” before confessing that what she was actually going through was not a physical issue but a mental one known as the “twisties.”

Related: Simone Biles returns: What are the US gymnast’s plans for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris?

What are the “twisties”?

Gymnasts have described twisties as an uncontrollable fear when performing, a mental block that lasts for a second but can make them hurt themselves or even ruin their whole exercise.

Twisties can happen to any gymnast, even with the different techniques they have learned over the years. They most commonly happen during the vault and floor exercises.

This kind of mental block is not only experienced by gymnasts. Athletes from other sports have described similar feelings, such as the “yips” in golf.

How do the twisties affect gymnasts?

Imagine skydiving and your parachute won’t open,” said Christina Myers, a former gymnast and coach. “Your body starts adding extra twists and flips to the skill days ago felt as routine”

This well-known term in the world of gymnastics can suddenly cause a person to lose their sense of space and dimension while they are in the air, provoking them to do extra flips or twists they were not intended to do due to the impossibility of controlling their body. In the worst cases, they can find themselves unable to land safely.

As Biles made her issue with the “twisties” public, many gymnasts came up supporting the GOAT and recounted their own experiences dealing with twisties.

“The rhythm is off, and your brain will like stutter step for half a second, and that’s enough to throw off the whole skill,” said Biles’ teammate, Laurie Hernandez, in Rio 2016. “It becomes difficult to compartmentalize the exact element a gymnast’s body is attempting.”

“She has got a lot of weight on her shoulders. Everyone thinks that she is just going to be absolutely out of this world and perfect, and she’s not human. But actually, she is human, and I think the pressure just got too much.”

“It’s really dangerous if you doubt yourself a little bit, or you find it really hard, you can really really hurt yourself. I’ve been in her shoes and I ended up hurting myself.” British gymnast Claudia Fragapane said referencing Biles.