What Does It Mean When A Gymnast Gets 'The Twisties'?

Olympic gymnast Simone Biles raised awareness about mental health when she withdrew from the competition on Tuesday, saying that while she was okay physically, she was not in the right place mentally. In an interview later that day, Biles, 24, said she got "a little bit lost in the air" during the vault event, a term gymnasts often refer to as "the twisties," NPR reported.

The twisties describes when a gymnast loses track of where they are during a particular move in midair. This lack of awareness makes it difficult to come out of the move and achieve a safe — much less perfect — landing. Biles' 2016 Olympic teammate, Laurie Hernandez, told Olympics that the twisties often occur when a gymnast is doing high-level maneuvers, particularly during the floor or vault events. "The rhythm is off, and your brain will like stutter step for half a second and that's enough to throw off the whole skill," she said. "And, so, it happens, and it takes a second to get over that."

The twisties can happen anytime

Former gymnast Catherine Burns can also relate to the twisties. Echoing Biles' description, Burns told NPR that the twisties occur when a gymnast realizes "something's not right" with a particular move, resulting in a sense of being lost in the air. She added that most of the time, the sensation happens during a twisting or rotational maneuver, but it can even happen on a "simple" move.

Simone Biles has had her share of the twisties. The four-time gold medalist told Olympics that at the beginning of 2019, she "forgot how to twist and flip." Regrettably, her latest experience with the twisties came on during the Olympics. She planned on completing a vault maneuver that requires two and a half twists of her body, but instead managed just one and a half twists (via NPR). That lack of assurance caused her to stumble a bit at the end of her performance, which would be her last in the competition (via NBC). During a press conference, Biles explained that she withdrew to avoid doing something "silly" that could result in an injury (via Today).