What is the “loss of face”, the evil from which the American gymnast Simone Biles suffers?

In addition to her psychological torment, superstar Simone Biles invoked what gymnasts call “Loss of face” to explain its withdrawal in the middle of the team competition of the Olympics-2020, a loss of landmarks in space which can be reinforced or caused by stress and above all endanger an athlete.

Tuesday, July 27, when Simone Biles decided to everyone’s amazement to stop the all-around team competition after just one jump, she explained that she did not “Didn’t want to risk getting hurt or doing something stupid by participating in this competition”.

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Referring to her sanity, she spoke in passing about “Twisties” (literally twists), a phenomenon known in the gym and trampoline world, which can also affect golfers. Suddenly, the athlete loses control, his body no longer responds and his bearings disappear, a kind of disconnection leading to disorientation.

When the United States team, led by its star, made its entry into the Ariake gymnastics on Tuesday evening, we are far from thinking that the quadruple Olympic champion is in pain, she begins with the jump.

“I didn’t know where I was”

Before Biles sets off, everyone has just one question in mind: will she perform her new stunt, a double back pike she tested in training? If she does it at the Olympics, it would be a fifth figure named after her and she would mark the history of gymnastics even more.

But no, instead she engages in a said jump “Amanar”, a very difficult jump with two and a half twists, except that one twist disappears in passing. “I didn’t understand what happened, I didn’t know where I was in the air, I could have hurt myself”, she described during her press conference. Her teammates interrupt her: “We had a little heart attack seeing what was happening! “

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The infallible Simone Biles, gifted in the gym, who climbs to a vertiginous height on the ground thanks to an exceptional relaxation, is more the type to add a twist than to remove one. “In a career, all gymnasts have loss of figure”, explained to AFP Yann Cucherat, former director of the high level male. A former gymnast himself, he was confronted with this phenomenon for his outings on parallel bars in particular.

“Relearn everything”

“For me, this is what Simone Biles is experiencing and it is increased tenfold by the pressure”, he explains. “It rots our brains and we are afraid to do our acrobatics”, he explains again. The situation is all the more difficult for Simone Biles who has acrobatics of an exceptional level. To avoid “Lose your faces”, you have to regularly redo your ranges and break them down, explains Yann Cucherat.

In recent hours, several gymnasts have told on social networks that they have suffered from “Twisties”. It can be more or less intense and take more or less time to resolve. ” I have some twisties since the age of eleven “, explained Aleah Finnegan, American gymnast. “You no longer have any control over your body and what it does”, she explains.

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Swiss gymnast Giulia Steingruber, a specialist in vaulting, who is competing in the all-around final in Tokyo on Thursday, also said that she knew “A mental block” similar in 2014. “I was really scared” and “I couldn’t get out of it”, she says in a documentary. “She has to learn little by little again”, continues his trainer. Pressure, stress and anxiety can promote the appearance of this phenomenon. Simone Biles, five Olympic medals in Rio, spoke of this pressure she has felt for months, after a year of confinement and a postponement of the Olympics.

And yet, “Simone has an incredible balance in the air”, Aimee Boorman, her historic trainer, explained to Simone Biles’ mother when she was six years old. “She knows exactly where she is in space as she spins and spins and she instinctively knows how to land on her feet to land properly.” This is something that no coach can teach ”, she had told him.

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