Elle Reeve has a good explainer for why the world’s greatest gymnast was could not finish the competition at the Olympics:
You can learn a lot about a subculture by the slang it develops. Gymnastics has a lot of slang around fear: the twisties, headcasing, mental block, bailing, balking. Gymnastics is obviously physically demanding with a high injury rate. But it is extremely difficult psychologically as well. Many of the skills could kill you. When Kevin Durant’s foot was off by an inch in Game 7 of the NBA’s Eastern Conference semifinals, his shot was worth two points instead of three, and the Brooklyn Nets lost in overtime. When Riley McCusker’s foot was off by an inch on her beam dismount at the 2017 American Cup, she slammed backward onto her neck and then rolled over it.
For every perfect, floaty flip performed in competition, there are thousands done in practice, many of them ending with scrapes, crashes, and haunting near-misses. When Simone Biles scratched most of the Olympic team final, she said it was not because of a physical injury, but her mental health. This doesn’t mean she felt sad, or didn’t have her heart in it to compete. It means that her psychological state put her at significant physical risk. If her brain wouldn’t play along with what her body knows how to do, she could be seriously injured.
She said in morning practice that she had a little bit of the twisties. The twisties are a mysterious phenomenon — suddenly a gymnast is no longer able to do a twisting skill she’s done thousands of times before. Your body just won’t cooperate, your brain loses track of where you are in the air. You find out where the ground is when you slam into it.
Particularly given what she’s been through recently, this guy and the many other hacks churning out similar takes can eat an entire barrel of shit: