(WPRI) — After Simone Biles completed her first vault in the women’s gymnastics team competition in Tokyo, she knew something was wrong.
The 24-year-old reigning Olympic all-around champion withdrew from several events to focus on her mental health and told reporters she was “having a little bit of the twisties.”
The twisties are when a gymnast suddenly is no longer able to do a twisting skill she’s done thousands of times before. You lose track of where you are in the air and you find out where the ground is when you slam into it.
A local gymnast and coach at Aim High Academy in East Greenwich who judged floor routines at the Rio games in 2016 say the twisties are something that should be taken seriously.
“I completely understood what she was saying once I heard it. And I think it’s something that happens a lot, but not a lot of people know about it,” Emma Masse said.
Masse, 17, says that if you are dealing with the twisties, there’s not much you can do about it except go back to the basics and do drills until you figure out how to get back in sync.
Biles received a lot of backlash after dropping out of competitions with many people saying that she “quit” and that she was “selfish.”
“It was the only choice because on that level if she makes a mistake, it can be really dangerous. I think that was the only choice that they had,” coach Luis (Mitio) Okuda said.
“Health is more important than the result. The medal, it’s a medal,” Okuda said.
Masse said she believes a lot of things have changed with gymnastics and that a lot of it has been geared toward both physical and mental health.
“I think it’ll definitely change and there will be more things put in place to keep athletes safer and keep their mental and physical health where it needs to be,” she said.