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The Twisties and an Olympian’s History

Disrupting expectations for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, Simone Biles withdrew from four individual finals: the all-around individual competition, uneven bars, floor exercise, and vault. The shocking decision came after a series of obstacles affected Biles’ mental health thereby endangering her safety during the competitions. At 24 years old, the Olympian is widely regarded as the best in her sport but the difficult decision to withdraw was fueled by a myriad of factors which only Simone Biles can really understand. 

Biles’ Mental Health

Some have posited that Japan’s restriction of ADHD medication such as Ritalin may have impacted Biles’ mental health. However, Team USA has clarified that athletes are allowed to use psychotropic medications at the Tokyo Olympics according to a Therapeutic Use Exemption. Biles, who has been taking medication for her ADHD diagnosis since childhood, was able to apply for an “import certificate” which would allow the Olympian to bring up to 2.16g of methylphenidate into the country. Anyone visiting Japan can apply for these import certificates, so it is unlikely Biles was prevented from taking her ADHD medication there. 

When discussing Biles’ career and mental health it is essential to dig deeper than the 2021 Olympics. Simone Biles was one of the at least 265 women and girls Larry Nasser – the former team doctor for the United States Women’s National Gymnastics Team – is alleged to have repeatedly sexually assaulted. She trained at the Karolyi Ranch where this abuse took place until USA Gymnastics announced athletes would no longer be forced to train there. 

Childhood & Background

During her childhood Biles was taken by social services and put into the foster care system along with her siblings. Her mother struggled with substance abuse issues and was unable to take care of her children at the time. Thankfully, Biles was adopted by her grandparents when she was 6 and soon after began gymnastics. 

Each person struggles with a private history of trials and tribulations – Olympian Simone Biles is no different. Entering the 2021 Olympic Games amidst the ongoing anxieties of the global pandemic, she began the competition with incredibly high expectations already resting on her shoulders. As the team’s star player, Biles was held to the highest standard owing to her outstanding 2016 performance at the Rio Olympics. 

The Comeback

When she faltered on the vault, the American public was aghast. But many professional gymnasts have agreed the Olympian Biles was displaying tell-tale signs of the “twisties”. Essentially becoming lost in air, Biles had shown disorientation in practice and was luckily able to recover during her vault routine.

Not wanting to risk the team medaling, Simone Biles decided to withdraw citing her mental health. After working with her team, sports psychologist, and coach, Biles was able to compete on August 3rd in the Balance Beam Final. Winning Bronze and silver in this year’s Olympics, Biles is walking away a 7 time Olympic medalist. 


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