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Biles was right to sit it out

Melvin B. Miller
Biles was right to sit it out
“Sometimes it’s just best to keep both feet on the ground.”

Those in the audience watching Simone Biles perform often gasp in horror as they watch the talented gymnast soar through the air. Before she returns safely to terra firma or a well-padded mat, she intensifies the fright of those now watching carefully as the gymnast spins and turns in the air. In a moment, she lands, and the audience releases in unison a sigh of relief. There is no indication of the intervention of the twisties.

Although people rarely ask the question, everyone wonders just how the gymnast knows where she is as she completes those midair turns. Ask a gymnast and she will usually say, “You just know.” It reminds me of a great jazz musician who “just knows” an improvisation to include so aptly.

One problem in gymnastics is, however, if you ever fail to “just know” where you are in the air as you begin a turn, there could be an unfortunate ending to the routine. That state of “not knowing” occurs frequently enough for gymnasts to call it the “twisties.”

Any number of circumstances could induce a gymnast to become disoriented in that way. It is essentially a failure of your intuition to inform you as to where you are, just how high above the floor. This information will let the gymnast know whether there is enough room to add another turn.

This awareness does not depend on visual sight. And its absence does not indicate a psychological flaw. Its nature is akin to the sudden insight that comes to an artist or a scientist. Be assured that Simone Biles is not ready for the psychiatrist’s couch. Twisties will come or go as called for in their own realm.