Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast of all time, will be making one final appearance at the Tokyo Olympics after withdrawing over mental health concerns during the team finals last week. USA Gymnastics confirmed Biles’s appearance in a tweet on Monday stating, “We are so excited to confirm that you will see two U.S. athletes in the balance beam final tomorrow - Suni Lee AND Simone Biles!!” Together Biles and Lee have already won silver medals in Tokyo with Lee also earning the gold in the individual all-around competition and bronze in uneven bars.
After her withdrawal, Biles posted about what she was going through on her Instagram account referring to a well-known phenomenon in gymnastics known as the “twisties,” a distant cousin of the yips. The twisties, much like the yips, are a psychological anomaly as much as they are physical. An athlete afflicted with the twisties, as Biles explained in a since expired Instastory, affects a gymnast’s ability to discern where they are in space when performing a move that takes them off the ground, which is essentially everything that Simone Biles does on any given day. Even if it’s a move that the gymnast has been doing for years, the twisties make it near impossible to properly execute it and can lead to injury in some cases.
The yips operate similarly, although they often do not affect one’s ability to “tell up from down,” as Biles said of the twisties. However, the thing about both the twisties and the yips is that they are similar to the Candyman or Beetlejuice. Just the mere mention of either of these things can risk summoning them, and while we should trust Simone Biles knows when she’s ready, the superstitious sports fan in me wonders if it is definitively safe for her to return to an apparatus as dangerous as the balance beam.
Either way, it will be a sight to behold when Sunisa Lee and Simone Biles absolutely demolish the competition and cement their legacies as young champions.