*The following article contains mention of suicide/self-harm.
American gymnast and four-time gold medalist Simone Biles posted a video explaining she's still experiencing the difficulties that caused her to drop out of two events in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Biles, 24, has consistently won at Olympic and world events, accruing 30 Olympic and World Championship medals. She is revered as one of the best gymnasts of all time.
Thus, people were astonished when she dropped out of the team and all-around events.
Biles claimed her reasoning was because she came down with a case of the "twisties"—a well-known affliction in the gymnastics community.
In response to the backlash she is receiving, Biles released a video on Instagram with written commentary of her performing.
In the video, we can see her twisties in full force:
The twisties are gymnasts' version of 'the yips' that plague other sports communities, where the athlete seems to lose their skill and abilities for the sport.
The twisties are essentially a psychological state in which a gymnast has trouble judging their spatial placement in the air while performing acrobatic movements and becomes "lost" in their twisting, not able to tell up from down.
This can be a very dangerous affliction for gymnasts, as losing spatial awareness mid-trick while suspended in the air makes landing much harder and can lead to serious injury or even death.
After Biles dropped out she became the target of criticism from mostly White men. People gave her a hard time even though gymnast Sunisa Lee was able to score the gold medal for the U.S. in the individual all-around.
Biles said her case of the twisties "randomly started" after the preliminary competition.
The video shows Biles attempting a twisting dismount from uneven parallel bars and falling on a mat, unable to properly land.
In the video, she writes:
"I didn't quit. My mind and body are simply not in sync."
Biles then goes on to explain what having the twisties is like:
"Sometimes I can't even fathom twisting. I seriously cannot comprehend how to twist. Strangest and weirdest thing."
She also mentions with the twisties, she can't tell up from down while she's in the air.
"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."
When someone made a comment about Biles being "adorable" when falling, Biles slammed back:
"I don't think you realize how dangerous this is on hard, competitive surface."
Many people—including other Olympic gold medal winning gymnasts like Dominique Moceanu—are defending Biles' decision to pull out of the team and all-around events.
Swimmer and fellow gold medalist Michael Phelps also advocated support and understanding.
Phelps worked with HBO to produce the documentary The Weight of Gold which covered the high pressure and mental health concerns faced by Olympians which have ended with suicide on more than one occasion—even among medalists.
Biles has not said whether she plans to participate in the apparatus finals at this time.
With her current state, it seems likely she will continue to put her safety and mental well-being before earning another medal at the risk of her life.
If you or someone you know is struggling, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
To find help outside the United States, the International Association for Suicide Prevention has resources available at https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/