Simone Biles famously stepped away from the Summer Olympics to focus on her mental and physical health after suffering a bout of what gymnasts call “the twisties.” But the disorienting illness is keeping the champion away from competing in her beloved sport for even longer than she anticipated. 

As Biles told Hoda Kotb on the TODAY show this morning, it’s been tough for her to step away from doing what she loves for so long, but she is still fearful of harming herself if she returns to the mat. 

“The twisting, once I get back, will come back, but I’m still scared to do gymnastics,” she revealed. The twisties is a disorienting condition that causes a type of disconnection between a gymnast’s mind and body mid-air. This condition can have catastrophic complications for an athlete mid-routine, as it impairs the competitor’s perception and vision.

Biles believes the condition was triggered by the mental health pressures she was experiencing during the Olympics. 

“Over the years after suppressing so many emotions and putting up a front on a global scene, I think all of that came to light,” she explained. “My body and my mind allowed me to suppress all of that stuff for so many years, for as long as it could take. As soon as we stepped on the Olympic scene, it just decided it couldn’t do it anymore and it cracked.” 

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Now, as a performer on the road, doing gymnastic numbers during her G.O.A.T. (Gold Over America Tour) Simone Biles series, she’s had to abridge her performance style in service to her overall health.

“I don’t twist [anymore]. I do…my signature moves on the floor, but that’s never affected me. Everything else just, like, weighs so heavy, and I watch the girls do it and it’s just, it’s not the same,” she said, getting emotional. 

“To do something that I’ve done forever and just not be able to do it because of everything I’ve gone through is really crazy, because I love this sport so much,” Biles went on, tearfully. “But it’s hard. I’m sorry. And I don’t think people understand the magnitude of what I go through.”

Biles is now an investor in and spokesperson for Cerebral, a mental health app that provides users access to counseling, therapy, medication management, and other support tools and techniques that users may need to manage their unique challenges.