Olympic legend Greg Louganis breaks down what happens when an athlete suffers the “Twisties”
While gymnast Simone Biles did not rewrite the Olympic record book at the Tokyo Games as planned, she courageously changed the narrative from winning medals to championing athlete mental health and well-being.
Everyday conversation revolved around the “the twisties”, a type of mental block where gymnasts are disoriented during their gravity-defying skills and something few outside the sport had heard of prior to these Olympics.
Greg Louganis, winner of four gold medals and a silver medal in diving over three Olympics, has taken to social media to explain how this can happen to a world class athlete:
Getting lost in a trick, or the “Twistie’s” as someone termed.
This can be a foreign concept for the average person who isn’t doing multiple flips and twists like acrobats, gymnasts, divers, or the average circus performer and dancer.
Let me try to break it down.
You are blindfolded on a flight and hit massive turbulence, not knowing if you are over water or land, upside down or right side up. You have no idea if you will live or die; you have a rough landing and survive. It was traumatic, so much so you are terrified ever to fly ever again.
Trouble is you are a pilot, and this is your life, so you have to fly or quit your job and livelihood. It might take time thru hard work and support, but you can get back to the skies, but you have to do the work.
In time you CAN overcome, but in that instant, after that experience, there is no way you would be able to fly that plane, even without a blindfold.
I tried to simplify it, but concepts like these are often not so simple because we are emotional beings and not always rational.
Has this happened to me? YES! I got lost on an inward three and a half on 10 meters, it was still not my most confident dive, and I smack flat onto my back, over-rotating, reaching for the wall/ windows opposite the platforms.
I did manage to get back up there and complete the dive successfully a few times before I finished that training session.
But after that trauma, the thought and remembering haunted me so much it shattered my confidence, and I told my coach I had to pull out of that competition in that event. He was very stern and a little disappointed, but he said that he would support me as long as I was honest, and I agreed.
The next day I spoke to the press, admitting that I was scared after my wipe-out.
I got grief from some of my team members, that I shouldn’t have come if I was going to “chicken out” and that the next in line suffer for my poor decision.
But what happened at the pool after the article ran was young kids approached me and shared they got scared too, and they appreciated me sharing that, that it made them feel worthy and helped them feel stronger and empowered.
By revealing our perceived weakness, we are transferring our strength by admitting our vulnerabilities.
Courage and bravery are demonstrated when we share our vulnerabilities.
Namaste, Greg Louganis