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The Real Reason Why Twisties Affect Most Gymnasts like Simone Biles

After completing her first vault in the women’s gymnastics team competition in Tokyo, the reigning Olympic all-around champion, Simon Biles, looked worried. Although, she didn’t look in pain and wasn’t seem to be in great distress and concern. Biles was said to do half-twists in the air after launching off the vault. But since she was airborne, she suddenly lost her bearings and knew something was wrong.

Biles had later said that the combination of mental stress and pressure building up had severely affected her confidence. Not only that, she had felt disconnected from her mind and body. Experts refer to this as twisties, and most gymnasts suffer from it at some point in their lives. Let’s find out more about it here.

Decoding Twisties

The twisties are a common phenomenon among gymnasts. It usually happens when they lose control of their bodies as they make twists through the thin air. Gymnasts sometimes have to make an additional twist and stop right midway in their routine. It can affect their physical and mental health and even prove dangerous.

When gymnasts suddenly realize that their body is no longer in control, it can add to the extra stress level. You feel helpless, not knowing what exactly is in store for you.

The ‘Twist’ in The Body and Mind

Gymnasts often require a lot of muscle memory to learn some of the tricks, especially when they are half in the air. Catherine Burns, a former gymnast, once tweeted that gymnasts often stop trusting their muscle memory. Biles, like many gymnasts, suffered from Twisties. In the case of Simone, it was in the middle of an Olympics tournament.

It looks like the Twisties affect sportspersons from others sports too. Most other sportspersons call this the yips. It is when athletes get unexplained jerky movements or twitches. It is mostly the body’s reaction to fear.

The Way Gymnasts Cope With Twisties

Often, gymnasts have to relearn the basic skills, sometimes near a foam pit if applicable for safety, to become more comfortable with their muscle memory. Swiss gymnast Giulia Steingruber underwent a similar experience of the twisties in 2014. When she had to go into a vault, she suddenly lost all control and was very scared. It was tough for her to understand as she did not know how it came to her? Not only was it strange but a horrible experience.

Steingruber had to relearn her skills as she began with a simple half-twist on the floor. In 2016, she went on to win an Olympic bronze medal in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Stress and The Twisties – The Co-relation

How it affects gymnasts differs from one gymnast to another and causes twisties from one gymnast to another. How twisties affect vary from gymnast to gymnast. Sometimes, it can be triggered if the gymnast tries different twisting skills simultaneously. For instance, it moves back and forth between double-twisting elements, one-and-a-half twists, and triples. Stress can be one of the primary contributors to them. It can just grip someone out of the blue for no reason.

For Biles, it occurred on the world’s biggest stage, and the look of concern also affects the psyche. She is also trying out one of the difficult skills in the world. If you are not mentally in a great place or have the twisties, things can worsen. One wrong landing, or suddenly landing on your neck, can make things worse.

Biles Shows the Way

Biles has shown how it is important to prioritize mental health and ensure that everyone understands the importance of mental health and how to give it the utmost priority. She has shown that humans, even if you are one of the most revered gymnasts, can err, and sometimes, it can get to you. However, she was very happy with her decision, and despite the weight of expectations, she did not let it get to her.

Biles has proved once again that prioritizing mental health is important for everyone. Also, athletes sometimes have to rush from one important to another, hardly prioritizing their mental health.
If you are a gymnast, know that you must focus on your cumulative health, your physical, and your mental health to thrive in your chosen arena and life!

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