Simone Biles Revealed How the ‘Twisties’ Still Affect Her Gymnastics Performances

Simone Biles Revealed How the ‘Twisties’ Still Affect Her Gymnastics Performances

Simone Biles’s terrifying experience at the Tokyo Olympics this summer continues to impact the way she performs gymnastics to this day. Biles revealed in a new interview that she is “still scared” to do certain moves—but also feels strong and proud of herself for getting through it.



Simone Biles Revealed How 'the Twisties' Still Affect Her Gymnastics  Performances | SELF




On the Today show this week, Biles shared that she still gets the “twisties” when she performs. The phenomenon, sometimes triggered by stress, occurs when an athlete’s mind and body have a disconnect in midair, resulting in a potentially dangerous loss of muscle memory and spatial awareness. That danger forced her to pull out of several Olympics events earlier this year—and it’s what prevents her from doing any moves that require twisting in midair on the Gold Over America Tour she is currently on.




Simone Biles surprises with special leotard



“I don’t twist,” Biles said of her Gold Over America Tour performances. “I do double layout half-outs, which is my signature move on the floor, but that’s never affected me,” Biles explained. “Everything else—it just weighs so heavy. And I watch the girls do it. It’s just not the same.” Biles added, “I’m still scared to do gymnastics.”




Simone Biles's Vogue Cover: Overcoming Abuse, the Postponed Olympics, and  Training During a Pandemic | Vogue



Biles also spoke about how frustrating it is “to do something that I’ve done forever and just not be able to do it because of everything I’ve gone through,” considering how much she loves the sport. “It’s hard,” she said, tearing up. “I don’t think people understand the magnitude of what I go through. But for so many years to go through everything that I’ve gone through and put on a front, I’m proud of myself.”

In the interview, the four-time Olympic champion also revisited what happened in Tokyo, connecting her longtime repression of being sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar with getting the twisties. “Over the years, after suppressing so many emotions and putting up a front on a global scene, I think really all of that came to light,” Biles said. “My body and my mind allowed me to suppress all of that stuff for so many years for as long as it could take. And as soon as we stepped on the Olympics scene, it just decided it couldn’t do it anymore, and it cracked.”



Reflecting back on that moment when she realized she wouldn’t be able to perform, Biles said she at first almost blamed herself for the anxiety and mind-body disconnect she was experiencing. “But I knew I couldn’t put that blame on myself,” she said. “And once that happened, all the pieces were put together and I knew exactly what was going on, why it was happening.”



Biles believes her experience shows the importance of facing mental health issues head-on. “That’s why taking care of your mental well-being and mental health is so important, so that something like that doesn’t happen,” said Biles. “I’m grateful that it wasn’t somebody else, and it was me because I know I’m strong enough and I can get back on my feet and I’m going to be okay with the right help,” she continued.


Today, Biles is “doing “a lot better” and glad to be in therapy. “Getting the mental health therapy that I need has been really relieving for me, especially being on the road and being on tour,” Biles said. The gymnast, who is working with a mental-health-care app called Cerebral, is also “starting to get comfortable” in her role as a mental health advocate, and proud to be speaking out on behalf of other people who are sexual abuse survivors or struggling with their mental health.



Ultimately, the challenges Biles faced in Tokyo and her journey since have been transformational—especially for someone who previously said she “never truly believed” she was more than her gymnastics accomplishments until she received an outpouring of love and support after withdrawing. “I try to be strong, not only for other people but also myself,” Biles said. But “sometimes there are weaknesses in strength, and that’s okay,” she explained. “It’s okay not to be okay, and I’ve taught myself that, and I’ve learned so much about myself through this journey.” She added, “I wouldn’t change anything for the world. I think everything happens for a reason.”


Here’s What Might Have Caused Simone Biles’s Dangerous ‘Twisties’ During the Tokyo Olympics
Watch Simone Biles Show How Dangerous the ‘Twisties’ Can Really Be
Simone Biles and Her Mom ‘Just Cried Together’ After Her Sexual Assault


Carolyn Todd is a holistic health and life coach for people with diabetes. She was previously a health editor at SELF, and her work has appeared in other outlets, including The New York Times and Men’s Health magazine.

SELF does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.


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