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Former Olympic gymnast reacts to Simone Biles' exit

Simone Biles got a lot of people talking on Tuesday, but few could actually relate to the young gymnast's experience. We found someone in Lackawanna County who can.

DUNMORE, Pa. — Dima Raynova, owner of United Sports Academy in Dunmore, knows firsthand the stress that comes with competing on an international stage.

She was just 14 years old when she competed in the 1980 Olympics for the Bulgarian National Team.

"Very emotional, with enormous amount of pressure. You represent your country, and you are obligated to do well; there's no wiggling around it," she recalled. 

Raynova says, from a very young age, gymnasts are trained not only physically but mentally too. 

She says the pressure comes with the territory; you just learn how to carry it.

"But the level of difficulty that Simone does, nobody else ever did. So we have to admit that none of us are in her shoes."

Raynova thinks Simone Biles made the right call for herself and for the team. 

One of her gymnasts, Gigi Sabatini, agrees. 

"Honestly, gymnastics, even at a smaller level, is just such a mentally demanding sport. And when you're the best in the world, and it's on all platforms, all social media, she's constantly being talked about as the 'greatest of all time,' I can't even imagine what was going through her mind, and the pressure she felt at the Olympics," said Sabatini.

But Sabatini and her coach say the mental difficulty goes hand in hand with physical danger.

Describing a phenomenon in gymnastics known as "the twisties," something Biles told reporters she was experiencing the day of the competition. 

RELATED: The 'twisties': Gymnastics requires as much mental strength as it does physical

Sabatini says the loss of spatial awareness puts you at an even greater risk of injury.

Other gymnasts pointed this out after Biles' final vault performance before she withdrew from the competition. She did fewer rotations in the air than she was supposed to and landed awkwardly, drawing gasps from the crowd. 

"It's kind of like, you're in the air, everything stops, you have no idea where you are, you have no idea what's going on, and it's scary. So, when you're doing skills that are as hard as hers, no one else in the world can do them, it's really dangerous to just come down with no idea where you are," said Sabatini.

Biles has not announced whether she's competing in the individual events, which begin on Sunday. But it's safe to say everyone at United Sports Academy in Dunmore will have their eyes glued to the TV during the all-around competition on Thursday.

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