Jessica Gadirova: Simone Biles’ Olympic woes have helped gymnasts to ‘speak up’

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Jessica Gadirova says gymnasts of her generation feel able to “be more open” in the wake of Simone Biles’ public struggles at the Tokyo Olympics.

Gadirova, who alongside her twin sister Jennifer was part of the team which won Britain’s first women’s gymnastics medal in 93 years in Tokyo, said the American superstar’s decision to speak out had helped protect the mental and physical health of her peers.

Biles confessed during the Games she was suffering from a mental block called the “twisties”, akin to the “yips” which can affect golfers.

Gadirova told the PA news agency: “I used to have a problem with learning my twists, but have never really had a problem with my twisting yet.

Simone Biles revealed her struggles with the
Simone Biles revealed her struggles with the “twisties” during the Tokyo Games (Mike Egerton/PA)

“But I do understand gymnasts that get the ‘twisties’ and as a gymnast it’s very, very scary when you do have them, because you’re in great danger if you do not know where you are.

“I think with her voice and how she has spoken up, it definitely helped the younger generation to be more open and to speak up, and let coaches know how the gymnast feels so they can help us as much as possible.”

The 17-year-old twins, who train in Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, have a busy 2022 ahead set to feature a British Championships, a home Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and a European Championships. It will culminate in a home World Championships in Liverpool, which start in exactly 12 months’ time and run until November 6, 2022.

Jennifer admits the roar of a home crowd at the M&S Bank Arena will give her a lift, after missing out on that sort of support during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Coming up as a junior there weren’t many people watching the junior competitions, and due to Covid there wasn’t any crowd during the Olympics,” she said.

Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova attended the world premiere of the new James Bond film last month
Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova attended the world premiere of the new James Bond film last month (Ian West/PA)

“I haven’t been used to having a big crowd or a lot of cheering. But I think sometimes with me, I like hearing the crowd and I get that adrenaline rush and it gets me pumping to go.

“I can’t wait just to hear the crowds and loads of people being back in the competition.”

To mark one year to go to the Championships, the twins spent Friday morning at the Everton Park Gymnastics Club in Liverpool, hoping to inspire a new generation of gymnasts.

Jessica said: “I’ve always looked up to people to inspire me and motivate me to be the best gymnast I can be. So for me to do the same thing is very nice.

“And having the opportunity to say what I think about gymnastics to the younger generation, I think would really help.

“I feel like all gymnasts have their own experience or their own journey to gymnastics. So hearing other people’s journeys to where they are is very interesting and hopefully inspires young people.”

:: The World Gymnastics Championships Liverpool 2022 will take place at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool 29 Oct – 6 Nov 2022. This Olympic qualifying event for the Paris 2024 games will be one of the largest international sporting events ever to be held in the city. To find out more and get your tickets, visit 2022worldgymnastics.com.

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