Just weeks after testifying in front of the U.S. Senate about the FBI’s handling of the Larry Nassar investigation, Simone Biles has opened up about her struggle with “the twisties,” which ultimately caused her to drop out of the all-around competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Speaking with Camonghne Felix of The Cut, the most-decorated gymnast of all time admitted she should have quit competing long before the Olympics.
“If you looked at everything I’ve gone through for the past seven years, I should have never made another Olympic team,” Biles told the outlet. “I should have quit way before [the] Tokyo [Olympics], when Larry Nassar was in the media for two years. It was too much. But I was not going to let him take something I’ve worked for since I was 6 years old. I wasn’t going to let him take that joy away from me. So, I pushed past that for as long as my mind and my body would let me.”
In 2016, the year Biles won her first Olympic medals, news of Nassar’s sexual abuse broke. Two years later, Biles revealed that she too was abused by the U.S women’s national gymnastics team doctor, who later received a life prison sentence after more than 260 women and girls accused him of abuse. Despite the trauma and media attention, Biles continued training and competing, which she believes eventually resulted in her getting the twisties in Tokyo.
“It’s so dangerous,” Biles said of the twisties, a gymnastics term that refers to when gymnasts can no longer rely on muscle memory. On the Olympics’ fifth day of competition, Biles said she pushed off the vault and couldn’t see herself or a map of the floor in her head, which had never happened to her.
“It’s basically life or death. It’s a miracle I landed on my feet. If that was any other person, they would have gone out on a stretcher,” she said. “As soon as I landed that vault, I went and told my coach: ‘I cannot continue.’”
She compared losing an ability she’s had for the past 18 years to suddenly losing one’s eyesight.
“Say up until you’re 30 years old, you have your complete eyesight. One morning, you wake up [and] you can’t see shit, but people tell you to go on and do your daily job as if you still have your eyesight. You’d be lost, wouldn’t you?” she said. “That’s the only thing I can relate it to. I have been doing gymnastics for 18 years. I woke up — lost it. How am I supposed to go on with my day?”
Biles faced backlash for pulling out of the all-around competition, but brushed off any critics who claimed she dropped out simply because she didn’t want to compete.