The 'frightening' phenomenon Simone Biles experienced before her Olympics withdrawal

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Simone Biles
Simone Biles LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images

Simone Biles shockingly withdrew from team competition at the Olympics this week after experiencing a "frightening" phenomenon known as "the twisties."

Biles, after withdrawing from the women's gymnastics team final Tuesday, explained that she had "a little bit of the twisties," and her teammates "saw it a little bit in practice." This term, The Washington Post explains, refers to a "frightening predicament" similar to the yips, in which gymnasts "lose control of their bodies as they spin through the air." With this "mysterious phenomenon," a gymnast is suddenly "no longer able to do a twisting skill she's done thousands of times before," CNN writes.

"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," gymnast Laurie Hernandez told Olympics.com. "And, so, it happens, and it takes a second to get over that. … I've had the twisties before. Hated it — so much. It's painful. It actively makes you feel like you're not the caliber of athlete that you are."

Gymnast Aleah Finnegan, who said she has "had the twisties since I was 11," also explained on Twitter that "I cannot imagine the fear of having it happen to you during competition," adding, "You can't control yourself and what your body is going to do next [therefore] literally risking your life."

Biles has since also withdrawn from the final individual all-around competition at the Olympics. She spoke about her decision Tuesday, saying, "We have to protect our mind and our body, rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do." CNN's Elle Reeve, who has experience as a competitive gymnast, explained that Biles withdrawing due to her mental health doesn't "mean she felt sad, or didn't have her heart in it to compete," but rather that "her psychological state put her at significant physical risk."

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