Simone Biles still struggling with 'twisties,' raising new doubts about returning at Olympics

·4 min read

TOKYO — Simone Biles continues to have the “twisties” on all four events, something she’s never experienced before, and that loss of awareness of where she is in the air raises new doubts about whether she’ll be able to compete again at the Tokyo Olympics.

Biles posted two videos on her Instagram story of her trying to do her uneven bars dismount Friday, and it’s clear she is not her usual self. She is supposed to do a double twisting somersault and, in the first video, she gets through a half twist before suddenly dropping out of the air and landing flat on her back. In the second, she makes it 1½ times around.

In both videos, she is landing on mats placed over a pit filled with foam blocks. In competition, however, she would have to do her skills on a hard, unforgiving surface.

Biles deleted the videos within about an hour of posting them, though she later re-posted the text that had accompanied them.

“I don’t think you realize how dangerous this is on hard/competition surface,” Biles wrote.

“Sometimes I can’t even fathom twisting,” she added. "I seriously cannot comprehend how to twist.”

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Simone Biles (USA) looks on after pulling out of the women's team final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre.
Simone Biles (USA) looks on after pulling out of the women's team final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre.

Biles pulled out of the team competition Tuesday after struggling to land a vault that is routine for her. She attempted an Amanar, which is one of the most difficult vaults women do, and dropped out of the air one twist short. Biles barely got it to her feet.

She said in the press conference afterward that she had developed the “twisties,” meaning her brain and her body movements are not in sync, causing her to lose track of where she is in the air. She said in her Instagram story that they began happening after she arrived in Japan.

“It’s honestly petrifying trying to do a skill but not having your mind & body in sync” she wrote. “10/10 do not recommend.”

Biles also withdrew from Thursday night’s all-around competition, though she was in the stands to watch teammate Suni Lee become the fifth consecutive American to win the Olympic title. Biles has not yet said if she will compete in the event finals, which begin Sunday. She has qualified for all four, the first woman since 1992 to do so.

Vault and uneven bars are the first event finals. Should Biles withdraw on vault, MyKayla Skinner would get her spot. Skinner finished seventh on vault in qualifying, but Jade Carey and Biles were ahead of her and countries are limited to two gymnasts per final.

France’s Melanie de Jesus dos Santos is the first reserve on uneven bars.

Biles has experienced the twisties before, including in the lead-up to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where she won five medals, four of them gold. But when this happened before, they occurred on vault and floor exercise.

Now she’s experiencing them on uneven bars and balance beam, as well.

“This time it's literally on every event. which sucks ... really bad,” Biles wrote on Instagram.

Gymnasts from all levels have taken to social media since Tuesday to express support for Biles and share their own stories of the twisties. It’s not simply a matter of being unable to do a skill but, rather, can put a gymnast in physical danger.

One former gymnast, Jacoby Miles, said in an Instagram post that she only had the twisties once. She is now paralyzed after getting them mid-air and breaking her neck.

For Biles, the physical risk is even greater. She does the most difficult skills of any female gymnast – and more difficult than those of some men – and being even the slightest bit off could be catastrophic.

“literally can not tell up from down. It’s the craziest feeling ever. Not having an inch of control over your body,” Biles said on Instagram. “What’s even scarier is since I have no idea where I am in the air I also have NO idea how I’m going to land, or what I’m going to land on. Head/hands/feet/back.”

When she’s had twisties in the past, Biles said it has taken “2 or more weeks” for her to recover. To get over them, she’s had to go back to the basics and do skills on soft surfaces and into pits to regain her confidence and air awareness.

That’s what she is doing here in Tokyo, working at an unnamed facility. But there’s no way to rush her recovery or predict when she might be ready to compete.

“honestly no telling / time frame something you have to take literally day by day, turn by turn,” Biles wrote.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Simone Biles shares video, answers question on twisties at Olympics

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