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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

When Simone Biles pushed off the vaulting table Tuesday, she entered that terrifying world of uncertainty. In the Olympic team final, Biles planned to perform a 2-twisting vault, but her mind chose to stall after just 1 twists instead. "I had no idea where I was in the air," Biles said. "I could have hurt myself." Biles, who subsequently withdrew from the team competition and then the all-around final a day later, described what went wrong during that vault as "having a little bit of the twisties."

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Imagine flying through the air, springing off a piece of equipment as you prepare to flip on one axis while twisting on another. It all happens fast, so there's little time to adjust. You rely on muscle memory, trusting that it'll work out, because with so much practice, it usually does.

But then suddenly, you're upside down in midair and your brain feels disconnected from your body. Your limbs that usually control how much you spin have stopped listening, and you feel lost. You hope all the years you've spent in this sport will guide your body to a safe landing position.

When gymnasts have the "twisties," they lose control of their bodies as they spin through the air. Sometimes they twist when they hadn't planned to. Other times they stop midway through, as Biles did. And after experiencing the twisties once, it's very difficult to forget. Instinct gets replaced by thought. Thought quickly leads to worry. Worry is difficult to escape.

"Simply, your life is in danger when you're doing gymnastics," said Sean Melton, a former elite gymnast who dealt with the twisties through his entire career. "And then, when you add this unknown of not being able to control your body while doing these extremely dangerous skills, it adds an extreme level of stress. And it's terrifying, honestly, because you have no idea what is going to happen."

After reading this explanation, Ms. Biles predicament makes all the sense in the world considering just how extremely dangerous almost everything that she does in gymnastics is. It can cripple, maim, or kill her should her mind lose control of her body movements considering the forces she generates.

Hopefully - if it is her desire - she can reboot her mental/physical connections and continue her pursuit of Olympic success. But whether she does or not, this blip will never diminish her current status as the greatest gymnast the world has ever seen so far.

#1 | Posted by tonyroma at 2021-07-28 09:13 AM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

I think in the days of Bela Karolyi, she'd still be competing.
Or not on the team at all, for being too fat.

#2 | Posted by snoofy at 2021-07-28 09:22 AM | Reply

Swing and a miss.

#3 | Posted by LegallyYourDead at 2021-07-28 10:10 AM | Reply

I can totally relate. Sometimes on stage I'll "wake up" in the middle of a song and have no idea what's going on. No clue what chord comes next or even what song I'm playing.
The clam that usually follows is bad, but I'm not going to break something like Simone.

#4 | Posted by TFDNihilist at 2021-07-28 03:49 PM | Reply

I posted this on my Facebook page earlier today after making a comment that it would be considered "quitting" in any other era or endeavor, yet her greatness is at such a high level she can quit whenever she wants and walk away the GOAT. Combined it was very perplexing. Champions don't usually quit and the lack of quit is what often separates the superstars from the champions.

I completely backtracked today and apologized for my premature judgment. No medal on Earth is worth risking becoming a paraplegic or quadriplegic.

It sucks though and definitely a bad look.

#5 | Posted by bocaink at 2021-07-28 04:45 PM | Reply

If, for whatever reason, you're about to do something that could easily result in you (a) dead or (b) very seriously messed up, and the voice in your head questions the power of your mojo today ... well, perhaps it's wise to pull back.

#6 | Posted by Doc_Sarvis at 2021-07-28 04:53 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

I'd rather go out like John Elway than Brett Favre.

#7 | Posted by snoofy at 2021-07-28 04:55 PM | Reply

That's fine and good, but she's been called THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME.

Sports are physical and mental. If you aren't good at the mental side, then you're not the greatest of all time.

Micheal Jordan never quit at halftime because the pressure was too great.

We've raised the younger generation to think mental stress, anxiety, and hurt feelings are as great of an injury as physical assault.

The next 20 year old I DON'T hear complain about their anxiety will be the first one I've met like that.

Having anxiety is about as unique as having tattoos these days. Everyone under a certain age is doing it.

#8 | Posted by SpeakSoftly at 2021-07-28 05:25 PM | Reply

This country we're handing off to the millennials is a broken joke. One person on minimum wage can't afford rent anywhere in the United States. No wonder that generation is full of anxiety.

#9 | Posted by Alexandrite at 2021-07-28 05:29 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 2

I feel like there's a pretty strong misogyny element to everyone who thinks it's wrong for a woman to not do things she doesn't feel comfortable doing.

#10 | Posted by snoofy at 2021-07-28 05:37 PM | Reply | Funny: 1

"We've raised the younger generation to think mental stress, anxiety, and hurt feelings are as great of an injury as physical assault."

That doesn't come close to accurately describing this situation.

But so what? Stress isn't healthy. Anxiety isn't healthy. Just because people lived unhealthy lives in the past, future generations should?

#11 | Posted by snoofy at 2021-07-28 05:46 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

"Michael Jordan never quit at halftime because the pressure was too great."

Nothing Michael Jordan ever did on the basketball court could end up with him forever maimed or dead. Sorry, Gymnastics is in a class with few other sports, like downhill skiing, bobsled and luge (off the top of my head) where mental focus has to be complete, and where a millisecond lapse can mean the difference between gold and life in a wheelchair or worse. If she's not feeling it mentally, good for her for taking her long-term health into account. She's 24-years-old, that's a long time to spend in a wheelchair, or eating through a feeding tube. I don't see any of her fellow gymnasts bashing her decision, they all understand what it's like to get the "twisties." The yips have lead to the end of many baseball, basketball and professional golf careers.

#12 | Posted by _Gunslinger_ at 2021-07-28 05:54 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

"We've raised the younger generation to think mental stress, anxiety, and hurt feelings are as great of an injury as physical assault."

That doesn't come close to accurately describing this situation.

But so what? Stress isn't healthy. Anxiety isn't healthy. Just because people lived unhealthy lives in the past, future generations should?

#11 | Posted by snoofy

Retreating from your challenges because you feel unpleasant emotions isn't healthy either.

I'm not saying thats what biles did, but it's what the younger generation does more than their predecessor did.

Letting anyone off the hook of anything because they feel "anxiety" isn't doing them any favors. But pharma will sell you a pill for your kid's anxiety if you can't teach them how to rise to the occasion and overcome life's difficulties. Just drug them up and keep them indoors. That way they're safe and can't be upset and their precious emotions will always be protected.

#13 | Posted by SpeakSoftly at 2021-07-28 06:09 PM | Reply

This country we're handing off to the millennials is a broken joke. One person on minimum wage can't afford rent anywhere in the United States. No wonder that generation is full of anxiety.

#9 | Posted by Alexandrite

It's been that way for decades. Every generation after the boomers has gotten progressively more screwed. But this is the first generation to try and ruin people's lives for hurting someone's feelings, and turn "having anxiety" into an excuse for everything.

#14 | Posted by SpeakSoftly at 2021-07-28 06:13 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

#13 | POSTED BY SPEAKSOFTLY

Thanks Capitalism!

#15 | Posted by TFDNihilist at 2021-07-28 06:17 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

I think in the days of Bela Karolyi...

#2 | Posted by snoofy

Bela Karolyi is an accessory to sexual abuse. Knowing what I know of their training you might as well throw child abuse in there. His wife Mrta Erss is no better. The things that happened to girls training under them are inexcusable. Totally acceptable under the communist win at all costs mantra but not in a free country.

#16 | Posted by GalaxiePete at 2021-07-28 06:38 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

#8 | Posted by SpeakSoftly

Sorry but that shows how clueless you are. My niece won many gymnastic events and was on the edge of going what I would say is "pro" - the level of the national team and competing for a spot on it. She ran into an issue with fainting when inverted and had not one but two very dangerous falls before they figured out what was truly wrong. What they do is damned dangerous. I seen more than one young girl get hurt at her events. I can't remember the last time I seen a pro basketball player taken off the court on a stretcher for an injury. Even those "mere" floor exercises with their tumbling runs are extremely dangerous if something happens. You could break your neck in an instant.

#17 | Posted by GalaxiePete at 2021-07-28 06:46 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

#17 | Posted by GalaxiePete

I didn't say it wasn't dangerous. I said to deserve the GREATEST OF ALL TIME label, you need to be able to dominate the sport, physically AND MENTALLY.

Tiger woods' mental game was ruined when his personal life exploded. But he fought his way back to the top.

I hope Biles does that too instead of becoming the poster child for why it's ok to quit, writing books, going on the lecture circuit, and telling kids "it's okay to quit if you're scared/if things are too hard/if someone makes your feel sad, etc"

#18 | Posted by SpeakSoftly at 2021-07-28 06:59 PM | Reply

Micheal Jordan never quit at halftime because the pressure was too great.

Michael Jordan walked away from basketball for almost 2 whole seasons because of his mental state when his father was murdered along with the toll 3-peating took on him both physically and emotionally. My daughter briefly lived and worked for a peer friend (now mid 20s) who's a paraplegic due to a fall she took while practicing cheerleading, not even something far more dangerous as world class level gymnastics is. Life is precarious for young women like these.

When the little voice in your head stops synchronizing with your body like it usually does, only a fool would try to continue with the knowledge that her next attempt might be her last as a whole human being. Discretion is the better part of valor - Simone has nothing to apologize for. I'd rather see her walk away physically whole than end up like Darryl Stingley did - or even worse, break her neck and die on the spot.

#19 | Posted by tonyroma at 2021-07-28 07:05 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 4

But he fought his way back to the top.

He did?

#20 | Posted by REDIAL at 2021-07-28 07:13 PM | Reply

Speaks, has it occurred to you that Simone might be at the end of her career at this very moment? She's been doing this almost her entire life from the age of 5-6. That's nearly 20 years. Her body and mind now are different than they were 10 years ago or even 5 years ago. Another retired gymnast spoke quite presciently about Simone's journey and how her body now has many many miles on it and that what was shrugged off earlier becomes nagging right now.

Had Simone retired before these Olympics, would you question her status as the GOAT? I doubt it. All we are seeing is either a momentary blip which could be brought on by all kinds of things, one of them being that her usual support system of boyfriend, family and close friends are not there in Japan to support her this Olympics, nor are there fans constantly reacting to what she's doing. No one knows why or how our minds work under unique and wholly different circumstances than one usually encounters.

Years ago, all Simone had was her gymnastic goals. Now she has a life in front of her, perhaps marriage and children. Who knows how all this plays out in someone's mind in moments of high stress. As I said above, if Simone is able to reboot her mental/physical synapses to her own satisfaction perhaps she'll still compete. But if those connections remain shaky, she should do what she's doing and remain on the sidelines. Anything else under the circumstances would be foolish and unbefitting of any GOAT in any sport. She has nothing left to prove that she hasn't already accomplished.

#21 | Posted by tonyroma at 2021-07-28 07:14 PM | Reply | Newsworthy 2

You know cures the "twisties"? The lickety-splits. Fellow gymnasts understand what that means.

#22 | Posted by sentinel at 2021-07-28 07:24 PM | Reply

And let's define what stress Simone is under while competing.

Simone has learned to physically launch her body into the air while rotating it on TWO different axes at the same time - generating tremendous physical forces that if not landed precisely in a manner that her muscles and bones can absorb, might rip her joints, ligaments, bones, and tendons to SHREDS, even to the point of killing her on the spot.

There is nothing in competitive sports that comes close to this that even deserves a considered analogy.

Stress is not the right word when your mind stops instinctively working with your body as it regards world class gymnastics. Shutdown would be more appropriate, and when systems shutdown, they're either rebooted or you can no longer use them until they can be returned to their usual state. Trying to force a reboot never works.

#23 | Posted by tonyroma at 2021-07-28 07:30 PM | Reply

All we are seeing is either a momentary blip which could be brought on by all kinds of things, one of them being that her usual support system of boyfriend, family and close friends are not there in Japan to support her this Olympics, nor are there fans constantly reacting to what she's doing. No one knows why or how our minds work under unique and wholly different circumstances than one usually encounters.

#21 | Posted by tonyroma

Which was my point- If you can't perform because your boyfriend isn't there or the crowd isn't cheering loud enough, you're not the GOAT.

All GOATS decline eventually, but how they leave the sport matters when it comes to claiming to be the GOAT. You can be sure tom brady won't end his career by staying in the locker room at halftime of the superbowl because he's too stressed out or not giving his best performance. And he could be critically injured on any play.

#24 | Posted by SpeakSoftly at 2021-07-28 07:32 PM | Reply

...when it comes to claiming to be the GOAT.

I'm pretty sure Ali was the only one to do that.

#25 | Posted by REDIAL at 2021-07-28 07:36 PM | Reply

"Retreating from your challenges because you feel unpleasant emotions isn't healthy either."

That really depends on the circumstances surrounding the challenge.

And again, that's not even close to an accurate description of this incident.

#26 | Posted by snoofy at 2021-07-28 08:18 PM | Reply

"I said to deserve the GREATEST OF ALL TIME label, you need to be able to dominate the sport, physically AND MENTALLY."

She's already done that.

#27 | Posted by snoofy at 2021-07-28 08:18 PM | Reply

I can't imagine what it's like to have a brain fart while you're in the middle of the air spinning in multiple directions, unsure where you are. It's sad she'll be remembered for backing out of Olympic competition instead of for her past accomplishments.

#28 | Posted by AMERICANUNITY at 2021-07-29 01:09 AM | Reply

I said to deserve the GREATEST OF ALL TIME label, you need to be able to dominate the sport, physically AND MENTALLY.

Michael Jordan won three championships in a row and retired in his prime because he was physically and mentally exhausted. Now one was calling him soft.

Every generation thinks the most recent generation has diminished in some vague standard of toughness or ethics. It's as old as sexism.

#29 | Posted by BluSky at 2021-07-29 06:36 AM | Reply

Bjorn, known for his coolness under pressure retired at 26 citing mental fatigue. Jim Brown at 29. And what about Georgie Best or Paul Gascoigne who sought help from the bottom of a bottle and ruined their lives.

I suspect some of the armchair psychologist, subjected to the everyday life of Biles, would be crying for their momma inside half an hour.

#30 | Posted by BluSky at 2021-07-29 07:32 AM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

Sorry, this stuff keeps coming to me after i hit publish....

Eric Heiden, won 5 gold medals in speed skating (the track and field equivalent of winning the 100m, the marathon and every race in between, couldn't handle the celebrity life, quit and became a world champion in bicycle racing.

None of this is easy, people like Simone Biles just make it look that way.

#31 | Posted by BluSky at 2021-07-29 07:53 AM | Reply

Biles suffered from a spatial disorientation affliction that made any further participation not only dangerous, but potentially life threatening. This is not something one just "guts out" anymore than athletes force themselves to compete during bouts of vertigo, with concussions, or blurred vision in sports requiring visual precision.

If one takes the experiences of other gymnasts who've encountered the same affliction (read the article), there are known protocols of rehabilitative practices which can "reboot" the mental/physical connections which become broken. But there is neither the time nor needed training aids available in Japan right now for Simone to do that even if she wanted to. But in no way is this disorientation something that any individual can just overcome through sheer force of will. The human mind simply does not work that way.

#32 | Posted by tonyroma at 2021-07-29 08:04 AM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

Spatial disorientation is what killed JFK Jr.

#33 | Posted by AMERICANUNITY at 2021-07-29 08:18 AM | Reply

Micheal Jordan never quit at halftime because the pressure was too great.

#8 | POSTED BY SPEAKSOFTLY AT 2021-07-28 05:25 PM | REPLY | FLAG:

Did MJ's team doctor molest all of the Chicago Bulls?

#34 | Posted by sitzkrieg at 2021-07-29 08:55 AM | Reply

Spatial disorientation is what killed JFK Jr.

#33 | POSTED BY AMERICANUNITY AT 2021-07-29 08:18 AM | FLAG:

Visual Flight Rules into Instrument Meteorological Conditions. It's called "178 Seconds to Live", about how long it takes for untrained pilots to enter a graveyard spiral.

#35 | Posted by sitzkrieg at 2021-07-29 08:59 AM | Reply

I think in the days of Bela Karolyi...

#2 | Posted by snoofy

To expand on my comments about Bela... Twitter - Dominique Moceanu's comments. This girl was very young at the time. She was also Romanian. I believe her parents followed Bela to the US... Watch the video knowing she is 14, injured and feels as though she is not allowed to stop. She had a tibial stress fracture while competing and they didn't even check her spine after that fall. At least Biles is an adult who could say stop.

BTW - Final straw for my niece was a significant knee injury. It seemed like she was always injured in some fashion though. Same for her friends.

#36 | Posted by GalaxiePete at 2021-07-29 09:41 AM | Reply

It seemed like she was always injured in some fashion though. Same for her friends.

We had the same problem with wrestling in our household.

#37 | Posted by Alexandrite at 2021-07-29 09:48 AM | Reply

Hope I don't spoil anyone's TV tonight, but Suni Lee of the U.S. won the all around gymnastic Gold half an hour ago!! She's the one whose dad is wheelchair bound. WTG!!

Watching the gymnasts do multiple backwards somersaults without using their hands on a 4" balance beam boggle the mind.

#38 | Posted by AMERICANUNITY at 2021-07-29 09:55 AM | Reply

" This is not something one just "guts out" anymore than athletes force themselves to compete during bouts of vertigo, with concussions, or blurred vision in sports requiring visual precision."

My four cousins, all girls, were all sports nuts due to their dad. The oldest dove a little, in local competitions. The next oldest dove and won in local and regional competitions.

The third was the fierce athlete: like her younger sister, she started tumbling and twisting on the trampoline before she could walk. Her wins began local, then regional, and at the tender age of 11, she won the 12-and-under national diving championship. She soon graduated to the 10 meter platform, and continued her success.

Until that fateful day.

On her first somersault, her head hit the edge of the platform. Her dad described the fall like a duck who'd been shot.

After that, she acquired the one thing she'd never had: fear. She had to step away.

God bless Simone Biles.

Oh, and #4? With the help and support of her three big sisters, she won the Olympic Bronze Medal in Seoul.

#39 | Posted by Danforth at 2021-07-29 11:46 AM | Reply | Newsworthy 1

Simone Biles won nationals w/broken toes in both feet, worlds w/a kidney stone, and has carried the burden of being a face of sexual assault survivors as a national institution failed to support themHalf of y'all yelling about "toughness" can't handle wearing a mask in Wegman's— Kavitha A. Davidson (@kavithadavidson) July 27, 2021

#40 | Posted by AMERICANUNITY at 2021-07-30 03:02 AM | Reply

Update:

Simone Biles said her "mind and body are simply not in sync" in an Instagram post Friday morning while going more in depth about the issue that she says has plagued her since she arrived in Tokyo for the Olympic Games.

Biles posted a video of her during practice on the uneven bars on Friday morning in which she tries a 1 twist and falls flat on her back.

"I don't think you realize how dangerous this is on hard/competitive surface," she commented along with the video.

This was not happening before she left the U.S, Biles said, adding that "it randomly started happening after prelims competition the very next morning."

Biles also answered several questions from fans, revealing that she is still dealing with the twisties as of Friday morning, adding, "Sometimes I can't even fathom twisting. I seriously cannot comprehend how to twist. Strangest and weirdest thing as well as feeling."

Biles said she has experienced this phenomenon in the past, but it usually shows up only in floor and vault and lasts two or more weeks. "It's never transferred to bars and beam for me, but this time it's literally on every event. Which sucks. Really bad," she added.

When asked what it feels like while twisting, Biles said, "Literally cannot tell up from down. It's the craziest feeling ever. Not having an inch of control over your body. 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.

Anyone claiming that this incident diminishes Biles lifelong accomplishments or calls into question her competitive drive doesn't deserve to be listened to whatsoever. Such claims are the height of ignorance as to what it takes to achieve at her level to begin with.

#41 | Posted by tonyroma at 2021-07-30 10:34 AM | Reply

The professional on the ground gets to make the call.

This "contoversy" makes me glad I don't follow sports.

#42 | Posted by Zed at 2021-07-30 10:43 AM | Reply

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