TOKYO — Simone Biles continues to experience the “twisties,” unable to be certain of where she is in the air, on all four events, something she’s never experienced before, and it raises new doubts about whether she’ll be able to compete again at the Tokyo Olympics.
Biles posted two videos of her trying to do her uneven bars dismount Friday on her Instagram story, 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.
“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.”
The videos on Biles’ account were removed within an hour of when they were posted.
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 disconnected from her body movements and she lost her air awareness. 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, who also withdrew from Thursday’s all-around finals, 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.
Biles has experienced the twisties before, including in the leadup 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, however, 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.
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,” she said. “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 “two 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. She didn’t name the facility.
“(Which there is a place here in Japan that has been so sweet to open their doors for me to train since they have do have those resources) so shout to you,” she wrote, adding grey heart and wide eye emojis. “you know who you are!! I’ll give a formal thank you once the olympics is over.”