Half of the four remaining individual gymnastics finals at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics will be minus the greatest gymnast in the world.
USA Gymnastics on Friday announced Simone Biles — who stepped away from the team final on Tuesday, after citing concerns for her mental health — will not compete in either of the vault or uneven bars events on Sunday. The release specified that she is still being “evaluated daily” to determine whether she can compete in the floor and balance beam finals, which take place on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.
Biles initially decided to withdraw from the team final on Tuesday after an awkward landing on the vault, so it makes sense she would remove herself from that event. But it and the uneven bars have a commonality that explains her withdrawal from that event, as well.
Here’s what you need to know about Biles’ withdrawal from the vault and uneven bars events, plus her status for the floor exercise and balance beam:
Why did Simone Biles withdraw from the vault, uneven bars finals?
Though USA Gymnastics’ release didn’t specify exactly why Biles withdrew from the vault and uneven bars finals, she likely is still focusing on her mental health after not only facing the pressure of being the most famous Olympian in Tokyo — in the United States, at the very least — but also a mental issue that directly affected her ability to compete.
Biles spoke out against those who said she quit on her team, saying the reason she withdrew was because she was undergoing something called the “twisties”: a sort of mental block in which the gymnast loses track of their position in the air, meaning they can’t properly execute their moves mid-air. That inability to keep track of yourself in relation to the ground makes it dangerously difficult to land properly without injury.
In that sense, it makes sense why Biles withdrew from the vault, considering that event most prominently exhibited Biles’ issues with the twisties:
It’s likely Biles dropped out of the uneven bars as well due to the fact it features several in-air twists and flips.
What is wrong with Simone Biles?
There is nothing physically wrong with Biles. She does, however, have a case of what gymnasts call the twisties, a mental block that affects their ability to determine where they are in the air. That lack of self-awareness is dangerous, considering the height gymnasts achieve in their routines.
Biles told reporters that, on the vault routine that directly preceded her withdrawal, she attempted a move called an Amanar. That move includes 2 1/2 mid-air twists; she only achieved 1 1/2 before getting her landing.
“I had no idea where I was in the air,” Biles said (via the Washington Post). “I could have hurt myself.”
Biles later clarified what the twisties are in Instagram story on Thursday, saying you “literally cannot tell up from down. It’s the craziest feeling ever. Not having an inch of control over your body.” She also specified that lack of control extends to her ability to land safely.
On her IG stories, Simone Biles responds to people who think she “quit” on her team by explaining the “the twisties” she’s been experiencing and what it feels like “not having your mind and body in sync” …. pic.twitter.com/79hN973rkd
— Kimberley A. Martin (@ByKimberleyA) July 30, 2021
Per her post, she had managed to clear some of her mental block but still had half a turn left before she could complete the move completely and safely (the video accompanying her explanation was taken the day of the post). She said her bout of twisties has typically lasted two weeks, but that it varies when you’re recovering day by day.
Curiously, Biles said she has never had the twisties transfer to the beam or uneven bars — only the floor and vault. That explains her decision to withdraw from the vault, but leaves in doubt whether she will compete in the floor exercise, which she described as one of the “scariest two” gymnastics events.