Simone Biles recalls fearing the worst after suffering ‘twisties’ in 2020 Olympics: ‘America hates me’

Simone Biles, among the most recognizable U.S. Olympic athletes, opened up in a recent interview about the pressure she faced going into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and how a bad bout of the “twisties” contributed to her eventually withdrawing from competition. 

Biles explained during Wednesday’s episode of the “Call Her Daddy” podcast that she was suffering from the “twisties,” a term in gymnastics that generally refers to as a “disconnect between the mind and body,” long before her infamous vault routine in the team final in 2021. 

Simone Biles warms up

Simone Biles warms up before the U.S. Gymnastics Championships Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023, in San Jose, Calif.  (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

“In training, I was having twisties already, but I’m trying to push past that, and I would literally tell my teammates, ‘I’m fighting demons. I’m fighting demons right now, but I’m going to do it for you guys.’ Because the cords were not connected.” 

Biles explained that it felt like her body and mind were “fighting,” but she had no choice. 

“I knew once I got up there — I’m chalking up — we can’t put Jordan [Chiles] in yet. I have to go. I have to put up a score. No matter what it is over the table, I have to put up a score.”

Biles underperformed. She lost herself midair and completed 1 1/2 twists instead of 2 1/2. She consulted with U.S. team doctor Marcia Faustin before walking off the field of play and being replaced by Chiles. 

Simone Biles of Team United States stumbles upon landing after competing in vault during the Women’s Team Final on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on July 27, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.  (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)


The U.S. won silver. But for Biles, the moment hadn’t passed. She now faced the fear of what her beloved fans would think of her. 

“If I could’ve got on a plane and flown home, I would’ve done it. But as soon as I landed, I was like, ‘Oh, America hates me. The world is gonna hate me, and I can only see what they’re saying on Twitter right now.’ That was my first thought.” 

“I was like, ‘Holy s—. What are they gonna say about me?’” she continued. “I thought I was going to be banned from America.” 

Simone Biles, of the United States, preparers to perform on the balance beam during the artistic gymnastics women’s apparatus final at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Biles pulled out of several events, but returned to win bronze on balance beam. 

She took two years off before returning in the fall of 2023 when she continued to increase her medal count at the gymnastics world championships. Biles’ return to the Olympics will be decided at the Olympic trials in June. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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