Gymnastics “can be life-threatening if you’re not mentally there”

Dominique Moceanu on July 29, 2021.
Dominique Moceanu on July 29, 2021. CNN

Dominique Moceanu, a 1996 Olympic Gymnastics Team gold medalist, offered her support and encouragement to Simone Biles, after Biles withdrew from the team competition and individual all-around event due to mental health concerns.

“We have to remember that athletes and Olympic-level athletes are human, too, and give them the support they need and also the time they need to heal when things are not going the way they feel they need to be. It’s also for their safety, for their mental health,” she told CNN’s Ana Cabrera.

Moceanu tweeted about her own experience pushing through an injury during the 1996 Olympics after she fell on the balance beam on her head and commended Biles for standing up for herself.

“I was 14 y/o w/ a tibial stress fracture, left alone w/ no cervical spine exam after this fall. I competed in the Olympic floor final minutes later. @Simone_Biles decision demonstrates that we have a say in our own health—“a say” I NEVER felt I had as an Olympian,” she wrote.

Moceanu said the conversation around mental health and sports has changed since she competed.

“I think we’re seeing that taking place right now with Simone being able to step up and acknowledge that something is not right, and that helps her make a decision for herself that you know, ‘What’s best right now is for me to take care of my health,” she said.

Biles said that morning of the team competition, she had a “bit of the twisties,” 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.

“Well, the twisties are something that you can’t get rid of in a day. And especially not on the hard competition equipment. You have to go back into pits and you to make sure that you are going back to the drills safely again,” Moceanu explained.

Whether or not Biles can compete in other individual events depends on the severity of the “twisties.”

“If she can get ahold of it and she feels like she can feel that air awareness back and she feels her mental game is sharp again, then absolutely she can go back out there for event finals and be the Simone weall know and can perform at the highest levels. It depends on the severity. This is not the first time the twisties have happened to her. It’s happened in her training before. So this is something she’s dealt with in the past. Now it’s just coming out on the grand scale of the Olympic games,” Moceanu told Cabrera.

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