This week Simone Biles withdrew from the team and individual all-around gymnastic competitions at the Tokyo Olympics after citing concerns for her mental health. The six-time Olympic medalist and 19-time world champion expressed that she would not compete due to a mental block and something gymnasts call ‘the twisties’, which was making it difficult to focus on her routines and execute them safely.
Biles’ decision to withdraw, and disclose the reasons why, has been heralded for its bravery in putting mental health ahead of success on the playing field. Her actions mirror that of Naomi Osaka who recently withdrew from the French Open and Wimbledon citing depression and anxiety.
Numerous Olympic athletes, past and present, have praised Biles for her decision. They have been joined by countless other athletes and celebrity figures.
One person who was not thrilled with Biles’ decision is UFC Hall of Famer Michael Bisping. In a series of tweets he called Biles a “quitter” and said that if she pulled out “because she wasn’t having a good day then that’s pretty weak”. Bisping also said that this episode was “not the lesson we teach our children.”
Bisping’s comments have since garnered a response from someone who knows exactly what Biles is going through. Dominique Moceanu, who won gold as part of the USA Olympic team in 1996, recently took to Twitter to salute Biles and share her own experience with ‘the twisties’.
In our sport, we essentially dive into a pool w/ no water. When you lose your ability to find the ground—which appears to be part of @Simone_Biles decision—-the consequences can be catastrophic. She made the right decision for the team & herself. @bisping— Dominique Moceanu (@Dmoceanu) July 28, 2021
At 14-years-old Moceanu went into the 1996 Olympics with a stress fracture in her right tibia. During the team event Moceanu fell during both her vault attempts, but qualified for the finals on balance beam and floor. In the beam final she fell awkwardly on her head. She also struggled during the all-around final, where she replaced her teammate Kerri Strug who had famously vaulted on a damage ankle at the end of the team competition.
On Twitter Moceanu shared the video of her fall during the beam final. She said that after this fall, which appeared to dangerously jar her neck and spine, she was left alone with no kind of spinal examination and that she competed in the floor finals just a few minutes later. Moceanu wrote that she felt she never had a chance to give her say on what was happening around her and saluted Biles for putting her health first.
In a response to that tweet, that tagged Bisping directly, Moceanu added that Biles decision was right for herself and her team.
“In our sport, we essentially dive into a pool without water,” she wrote to the former UFC middleweight champion. “when you lose your ability to find the ground—which appears to be part of Biles’ decision—the consequences can be catastrophic.”
Moceanu retired from gymnastics, due to injuries, in 2000 at the age of 19. She made a brief comeback to the sport in 2005 and competed in the 2006 U.S. Classic, but failed to qualify for the 2006 National Championships.
Since then Moceanu has turned to coaching and has written a book about her experiences titled Off Balance. In the fall out of the USA Gymnastics sex abuse scandal, Moceanu has been one of a number of former gymnasts to testify in front of Congress and battle for The Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse and Safe Sport Authorization Act of 2017, which was signed into law in February 2018.
Moceanu is also a keen fan of MMA.