Simone Biles took a back seat in the gymnastics arena in Tokyo on Sunday as she slipped inside to support US teammates.
The troubled athlete donned a black safety face mask as she took a third row seat above the gymnasium floor on the day she revealed she had withdrawn from another event, the floor exercise, for which she is the current champion.
Simone, wearing a Team US Olympic T-shirt, black training bottoms and white sneakers, sat with Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum as they cheered on the other athletes.
The star, from Spring, Texas, has brought herself time to ponder her Olympic future after declaring she is suffering mental health problems.
But she has stayed very much in the limelight, attending gymnastics and updating her six million followers on Instagram.
Simone Biles took a back seat in the gymnastics arena in Tokyo on Sunday as she slipped inside to support US teammates. Biles is seen sandwiched between gymnastics teammates Jordan Chiles (left) and Grace McCallum (right)
The troubled athlete donned a black safety face mask as she took a third row seat above the gymnasium floor on the day she revealed she had withdrawn from another event, the floor exercise, for which she is the current champion
Biles and other members of the American delegation stand and cheer during the women’s vault final in Tokyo on Sunday
On Sunday, she even posted a picture of the arena which helped give the scores of photographers her precise seating position, which was tucked well away from US officials.
She wrote: ‘Supporting the guys and gals – go USA.’
As America’s Mykayla Skinner became the first athlete to attempt the vault, Simone removed her mask and was see shouting ‘Let’s go Mykala!’
Jade Carey was also in the vault line ups for the US while Sunisa Lee was battling for her second gold in Tokyo in the final of the women’s uneven bars.
When Mykayla, who replaced Simone in the vault discipline, landed after her first attempt, Simone shouted ‘You got this, Mykayla.’
As she completed her second vault, Simone removed her mask and rose to her feet to applaud the 21-year-old who took her place.
As America’s Mykayla Skinner became the first athlete to attempt the vault, Simone removed her mask and was see shouting ‘Let’s go Mykala!’
Skinner managed to take home a silver medal after reaching the women’s vault final in Tokyo on Sunday
Skinner’s (left) jumps landed her the silver with gold going to Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade (center) and bronze to Korea’s Seojeong Yeo (right)
Biles makes a heart gesture with her hands while Chiles (left) and McCallum applaud Skinner’s performance on Sunday
But her jumps landed her the silver with gold going to Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade and bronze to Korea’s Seojeong Yeo.
Simone picked up her cell phone several times to check it, in between the athletes’ vaults and sipped from a bottle of water.
Jade finished eighth place.
Biles may have performed at an Olympics for the last time as she tonight decided against defending another of her gold medals.
On Saturday evening, she told Team US officials that she could not participate in the floor final event, leaving just one more discipline with her name on the start list.
Simone, 24, had already quit the uneven bars, vault, individual all-round and dropped out of the team event after just one attempt at the vault.
USA Gymnastics coaches and officials are ‘uncertain’ whether she will appear on the beam, in Tuesday’s final event and if she does withdraw, Olympic fans may never see her again at a games.
By the time the Olympics kick-off in Paris in 2024, she will be 27-years-old and Simone has told friends that her current age – she is the oldest US woman gymnast in Tokyo – has already added to the ‘demons’ which have affected her in Japan.
Biles may have performed at an Olympics for the last time as she tonight decided against defending another of her gold medals
On Saturday evening, she told Team US officials that she could not participate in the floor final event, leaving just one more discipline with her name on the start list
USA Gymnastics coaches and officials are ‘uncertain’ whether she will appear on the beam, in Tuesday’s final event and if she does withdraw, Olympic fans may never see her again at a games
She is full of doubt additionally over whether she can perform to her best and is suffering what gymnasts call the ‘twistiess’, where athletes lose focus and fear leaping through the air in disciplines and with little confidence .
Tonight USA Gymnastics said: ‘Simone has withdrawn from the event final for floor and will make a decision on beam later this week.’
In a show of support for the worried athlete, the officials added: ‘Either way, we are all behind you Simone.’
Simone, herself in one of her latest Instagram posts, said: ‘I am allowed to have boundaries and not feel bad. ‘
A friend of the six time Olympic medal winner Kevin Waterman posted a public message if support of Simone, which she responded with the message : ’Tears are pouring out of my eyes. I can’t help it.’
Biles is pictured competing in the vault event of the artistic gymnastics women’s team final earlier this week
‘I also have no idea how I landed on my feet on the vault. If you look at the pictures and my eyes you can see how confused I am as to where I am in the air,’ Biles wrote online
Biles stunned spectators when she fumbled on her vault – which is usually one of her strongest events – and she later revealed it was the result of the twisties
Kevin Waterman, who studied at the University of Michigan and who is followed on Instagram by Simone wrote: ‘Thank you for being you and for staying true to yourself, for always being there, and for setting a better example than any medal ever could.’
Simone added: ‘I have the best friends/support system. This post was so sweet…made me cry.’ She included a heart emoji in her response and a picture of her with her friend.
She added in a separate message: ‘ Always take a moment to celebrate the beautiful woman you’ve become. The obstacles you’ve overcome, the silent battles you’ve fought and the hard decisions you’ve had to make.Celebrate your strength and resilience.’
Biles, a four-time Olympic gold medalist, laid bare her current below-standard ability in a series on Instagram on Friday. She also opened up about her mental health struggles and battle with the ‘twisties’ – a mental phenomenon that causes gymnasts to feel as though they are ‘lost in the air’.
Biles first indicated that she was suffering from the twisties after she pulled out of the team final on Tuesday following an uncharacteristic error on the vault, which saw her bail out of her skill mid-air before struggling to land on her feet.
Biles, 24, shared video of herself practicing her uneven bars routine during training in Tokyo, in which she is seen executing several moves with no issue – before then plummeting to the mat
Simone Biles, 24, has shared more details about her mental health issues and struggle with the ‘twisties’, an issue that causes gymnasts to feel ‘lost in the air’ and can result in horrific injury
Speaking about the moment on Instagram, she revealed that her wobbly landing was actually the best case scenario, revealing that she could well have fallen onto her head or neck and ended up with a horrific injury.
‘I also have no idea how I landed on my feet on the vault,’ she said. ‘If you look at the pictures and my eyes you can see how confused I am as to where I am in the air.
‘Thankfully I landed safe enough but I also don’t think some of you realize I was supposed to do a 2 1/2 and I only completed a 1 1/2 twist before it looks like I’ve got shot out of the air.’
She said her team mates were ‘Queens’ for continuing without her and landing the silver medal.
Simone added it was ‘unfortunate’ that she would be expected to perform during her Olympic routines ‘ a ton of twists on each event.’
She slammed those who have criticized her for pulling out of the team and all-around finals, insisting that her mental health struggles are real and very dangerous
During her practice, she managed to execute one-and-a-half twists before falling backwards, a mishap that was caused by the twisties, which she said started after the qualification event
Viewers were invited to witness a training calamity, which was filmed on Friday in Tokyo.
In her Instagram video, Simone is seen going through her routine on the uneven bars during training – however when she performs her dismount, which requires her to twist her body around in the air, she failed to land on her feet and instead crashed to the mat, falling flat on her back.
Biles’ usual dismount – a double twisting somersault – requires her to complete two twists in the air before landing on her feet, facing away from the bars.
However, in one of the videos that she posted, the gymnast only managed to complete half of a twist, before plummeting to the mat and landing flat on her back. A second clip showed her completing one-and-a-half twists, before making the same crash landing.
Such a fault which would cost her heavily in points in Olympic competition if she were to resume her dreams of adding to the four golds and one silver she secured in Rio five years ago.
The twisties can also result in serious injury, leaving gymnasts unable to spot their landing correctly and therefore leaving them at risk of a dangerous fall.
Speaking about the struggle with the issue in the caption of her videos, Biles hit out at those who have criticized her decision to withdraw from both the team and all-around finals, insisting that she did not ‘quit’, while noting that mental health is just as serious as physical health.
‘For anyone saying I quit. I didn’t quit, my mind and body are simply not in sync,’ she wrote.
‘As you can see [in the video]. I don’t think you realize how hard this is on hard/competition surface.
‘Nor do I have to explain why I put health first. Physical health is mental health.’
When asked by one of her near-six million followers whether she has struggled with the twisties before, Biles admitted that she has experienced the mental issue in the past, adding that it is a ‘petrifying’ sensation.
‘I have experienced them before,’ she wrote. ‘They are not fun to deal with. It’s honestly petrifying trying to do a skill but not having your mind and body in sync. 10/10 do not recommend.’
However, Biles confessed that the mental block has only ever affected her performance on floor exercise and vault and has never been an issue for her on all four events – which is what started happening when she arrived in Tokyo.
‘It’s never transferred to bars and beam before for me it’s strictly like floor and vault. Go figure, the scariest two,’ she explained. ‘But this time it’s literally on every event, which sucks… really bad.’
Biles admitted during her Q&A that she has no idea how long it will take her to overcome her mental block – confessing that it could well be a much longer process than she has time for ahead of the upcoming finals.
‘Unfortunately it varies with time,’ she wrote. ‘Typically for me it’s usually two or more weeks when I’ve had them before. Honestly no telling/time frame, [it’s] something you have to take literally day by day, turn by turn.’
How the terrifying ‘twisties’ upended Simone Biles’ quest for Olympic glory: Gymnasts explain ‘dreaded’ and VERY dangerous mental ‘phenomenon’ that left one athlete PARALYZED
When Simone Biles announced her decision to drop out of the team final and women’s all-around competitions at the Olympics this week, the four-time Olympic gold medalist cited a scary mental issue: ‘They saw it a little bit in practice. Having a little bit of the twisties,’ she said.
To many non-gymnasts, it seemed that the problem was simply that the pressure got to be too much for her, or that she didn’t want to risk jeopardizing her ‘GOAT’ status with anything less than gold.
But to those familiar with the sport, the references to ‘twisties’ indicated something much more serious — and possibly even life-threatening.
Several gymnasts — including former Olympians — have since taken to Twitter to explain just what the dreaded ‘twisties’ are, and why Simone’s choice to back out while experiencing them may be saving her from catastrophic injury.
Catherine Burns, a former gymnast and diver from California, went viral with her Twitter thread ‘attempting to explain the mental phenomenon Simone Biles is experiencing: the dreaded twisties.’
Oh no! To those familiar with the sport, the references to ‘twisties’ indicated something much more serious — and possibly even life-threatening.
Quick explainer: Catherine Burns went viral with her Twitter thread ‘attempting to explain the mental phenomenon Simone Biles is experiencing: the dreaded twisties’
‘When you’re flipping or twisting (or both!) it is very disorienting to the human brain,’ she explained. ‘When training new flips and twists, you need external cues to learn how it feels to complete the trick correctly. (In diving, a coach yells “OUT” and you kick your body straight and pray).
‘Once you’ve practiced a trick enough, you develop the neural pathways that create kinesthesia which leads to muscle memory. Your brain remembers how your body feels doing the trick and you gain air awareness,’ she said.
Kinesthesia is the awareness of the position and movement of parts of the body by means of sensory organs in the muscles and joints.
Catherine then offered up an example of what the twisties might look like for a non-gymnast.
‘Think about something that took you a while to learn and required a lot of concentration at the time to get it right, but now is second nature. Driving a car is a good example (especially stick!),’ she said.
‘Suddenly, in the middle of driving on the freeway, right as you need to complete a tricky merge, you have totally lost your muscle memory of how to drive a car. You have to focus on making you foot press the pedal at the right angle, turn the steering wheel just so, shift gears.
‘It’s terrifying,’ she said. ‘You’re moving way too fast, you’re totally lost, you’re trying to THINK but you know you don’t usually have to think to do these maneuvers, you just feel them and do them.
When training to flip and twist, gymnasts use external cues. Once they’ve done it enough, they develop ‘neural pathways that create kinesthesia which leads to muscle memory
Terrifying: But when one develops the twisties, they suddenly lose that muscle memory
Kinesthesia, interrupted: For a gymnast in the air, that can mean falling fast and hard — and if they land the wrong way, it can lead to broken bones, spinal cord injuries, or even death
‘The twisties are like this, and often happen under pressure. You’re working so hard to get it right that you stop trusting your muscle memory. You’re getting lost in the air, second-guessing your instincts, overthinking every movement.
‘It’s not only scary and unnerving, it’s incredibly dangerous even if you’re doing basic gymnastics. The level of skills Simone throws combined with the height and power she gets can lead to catastrophic injury if you’re not confident and connected to your kinesthesia.’
‘When Simone says she’s taking it day by day, this is why. She’s not soft. She didn’t choke,’ Catherine said
Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to shake off.
‘This isn’t as easy to fix as just sleeping it off and hoping for a better day tomorrow. It can look like retraining entire routines and tricks. I never mastered my front 1.5 with a full twist because I’d get the twisties and it would mess with my other twisting dives,’ she said.
‘So. When Simone says she’s taking it day by day, this is why. She’s not soft. She didn’t choke. She isn’t giving up. It’s a phenomenon every gymnast and diver has experienced and she happens to be experiencing it at the Olympics. Can you imagine the frustration? The heartbreak?’
Catherine’s thread has gone viral, and other gymnasts have chimed in with their own thoughts, support, and stories.
‘It’s hard to explain the twisties to someone who doesn’t do gymnastics, but it’s a mental block and it’s real,’ wrote Missy Marlowe, an Olympic gymnast who competed at the 1988 Summer Games.
She’s had ’em, too! Missy Marlowe, an Olympic gymnast who competed at the 1988 Summer Games, shared her own experience with twisties
‘It’s like a non-serious stroke, you’re brain and body disconnect,’ she said. ‘And you can feel how to do something in your brain but you can’t make your body respond’
‘I had it happen twice, when I was 12 and 20. You cannot fix it quickly — can take months, if at all. It’s like a non-serious stroke, you’re brain and body disconnect,’ she went on.
‘And you can feel how to do something in your brain but you can’t make your body respond. You can twist the wrong direction, or start out twisting and get lost right on takeoff and you end up bailing out of the skill so you don’t crash.’
Gold medalist Dominique Moceanu, who applauded Biles for ‘demonstrating that we have a say in our own health,’ also pointed out that ‘the twisties only get worse with stress.’
Ariana Guerra, a University of Alabama gymnast, chimed in to shared her experience with the twisties.
‘At one point in my career when I would try to do a double layout, I would twist instead of doing the double layout. It’s scary and it can be dangerous especially landing on hard landings,’ she said.
A woman named Becca DiPaolo said that getting the twisties was one of the main reasons she stopped doing gymnastics after 15 years.
She gets it! Gold medalist Dominique Moceanu applauded Biles for ‘demonstrating that we have a say in our own health’
Yikes! She also pointed out that ‘ the twisties only get worse with stress’
‘It is the scariest most uncontrollable sensation. Being mid-air with no awareness is the most vulnerable and terrifying feeling. I am praying for Simone so unbelievably hard,’ she said.
Retired gymnast Danni Scribani even described her own terrible injury during a bout of the twisties.
‘The last time I had “twisties,” it landed me with a L3-L5 fracture, a back brace, and a wheelchair for a few weeks. It sucks and it can be dangerous,’ she said.
It was even worse for former gymnast Jacoby Miles, who was left permanently paralyzed after a case of the twisties.
In 2012, when she was just 15 years old, the was practicing the sport when she landed on her neck. She was a level nine gymnast at the time — just two below the Olympic skill level — when she suffered the devastating fall, leaving her in a wheelchair.
In light of her own experience, Jacoby said her ‘heart goes out’ to Simone and she is ‘so so glad she decided not to continue until she’s mentally recovered.’
‘I experienced those mental blocks throughout my career as a gymnast, and to be quite blunt, it only took one bad time of getting lost (or getting what they call the “twisties”) in the air in a big flip to break my neck and leave me paralyzed… most likely for life,’ she wrote on Instagram.
Meanwhile, other non-gymnasts grasping the concept of twisties for the first time have taken to comparing the phenomenon to ‘the yips,’ which athletes in many others sports — including golf and basketball — experience.
But the difference between the twisties and the yips, they point out, is that the worst outcome of the yips is a bad performance, while the worst outcome of the twisties is death or catastrophic injury.