2020 Tokyo Olympics: What Are the ‘Twisties’ That Gymnasts Are Referring To?

by Leanne Stahulak

Gymnasts all over the world have put a name to the feeling Simone Biles experienced when she pulled out of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics: the twisties.

Reporters from TODAY researched the phenomenon and interviewed Biles’ former coach, Aimee Boorman, for more info. TODAY said that the twisties refer to “a common phenomenon when gymnasts are in midair and lose awareness of where they are in the skill, making it difficult to land safely.”

That’s exactly what happened to Biles on her disastrous vault on Tuesday. Biles told reporters she was supposed to do a 2.5 turn, but she only completed a 1.5 and landed too early. Afterward, the world’s greatest gymnast pulled out of the team and all-around finals because she didn’t want to potentially injure herself by performing with a mental block.

A “mental block” is exactly what Boorman called the twisties, and she said Biles experienced it in past competitions. Boorman trained Biles for 12 years, according to TODAY, including through the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“Every once in a while, she would form this block,” Boorman said during the interview. “And usually it had nothing to do with the gymnastics itself. It had to do with other things going on in her universe.”

TODAY said that gymnasts who experience the twisties have to build back trust in the skill again, so they go back to the basics.

“Normally, when it would happen, we would go back training,” Boorman said. “And we would stop doing the skills that were making her feel like she was in the twisties.”

Biles told TODAY earlier that she wanted to take the rest of the Olympics “day by day.” She didn’t compete in today’s all-around competition, where Team USA member Suni Lee won the gold. But starting Sunday, she could return for the individual apparatus competitions.

Will Simone Biles Compete In The Upcoming Gymnastics Competition At The Tokyo Olympics?

Biles qualified for all four individual apparatus events: floor exercise, uneven bars, balance beam, and vault. TODAY reporters wondered whether Biles would choose to compete in only select events based on her comfort level.

“Simone’s former coach also telling us it may take two days or two weeks for Biles to get comfortable with the skill again,” TODAY reporters said. “So she didn’t rule out Simone competing in a final here in Tokyo. But there’s no real rhyme or reason to how she works through this, and it’s entirely on Simone’s timetable.”

While she’s gotten a lot of flak from people around the world for pulling out, others have supported the gymnast. Former 2012 London Olympics champion McKayla Maroney stood behind Biles’ on social media yesterday. She posted a video clip talking about how Biles isn’t the only gymnast to experience the twisties.

“I’ve had a lot of experience with these mental blocks,” Maroney said. “They are miserable. They are a gymnast’s worst nightmare and they can end your career.”

Maroney goes on to say that, “She was smart to protect her body and her mind. Because it’s more important. It just is.”