Simone Biles made headlines for pulling out of various competitions at the Tokyo Olympics, and we now have a much clearer picture as to what she was really going through.

“After the performance I did, I just didn’t want to go on. I have to focus on my mental health,” Biles said at the time, when a slight error forced the athlete to make an awkward landing at the women’s final. “I just think mental health is more prevalent in sports right now. We have to protect our minds and our bodies and not just go out and do what the world wants us to do.”

Later, the four time Gold-medal winning champion “liked” several tweets about the potentially dangerous gymnastics phenomenon, hinting at just how risky her remaining in the competition could have been.

“We’re not just athletes. We’re people at the end of the day and sometimes you just have to step back,” Biles continued. “I didn’t want to go out and do something stupid and get hurt. At the end of the day, we don’t want to be carried out of there on a stretcher.” And most viewers didn’t seem to realise that “leaving on a stretcher” could have easily been Biles’ reality, given her “twisties.”

Essentially an aggressive form of cold feet, or the yips — but in the air — a sudden case of the “twisties”can render even the most highly-trained of athletes suddenly unable to complete a manoeuvre they’ve done thousands of times before. As a result, they become extremely disoriented — again, while several feet above the ground— only locating the floor when their feet inevitably collide with it (if they’re lucky). “Twisties” gone awry have quite literally paralysed gymnasts in the past.

Now, Biles has taken to Twitter to clarify just how brutal her particular case of the “twisties” was during the games. Quote-tweeting a video of French gymnast Émilie Le Pennec falling headfirst onto a mat, Biles admitted: “Oh yeah this happened more times than I would’ve wanted in practice at the games…”

The Twitter user who shared the clip identified Lepennec’s fall as being “an obvious case of the twisties,” adding that they “guarantee something similar would have happened to Simone had she continued.”

Despite these various complications, Biles still went onto win a Bronze for Team USA on the balance beam — which is likely much more than her critics can say.

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