Simone Biles could add most difficult vault to gymnastics' rule book at Tokyo 2020

If the four-time Olympic champion attempts the Yurchenko double pike at the Games, it will be her fifth named element.

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Simone Biles is used to breaking her own records, and Tokyo 2020 is likely to be no different.

The 24-year-old already owns a share of the world record for most difficult vault in the code of points at 6.4, but if she performs the much talked about Yurchenko double pike at Tokyo 2020, she will hold it out right. The vault is expected to receive a 6.6 rating.

During Thursday’s (22 July) podium training, Biles made two attempts at the daring manoeuvre that she debuted earlier this year at the U.S. Classic. Though she over-rotated the first one, the second attempt was nearly flawless with just one step back.

What is currently the most difficult vault?

The International Gymnastics Federation’s (FIG) 2017-2021 women’s code of points has two vaults valued at 6.4: Biles’ own creation, a Yurchenko half on, front one-and-a-half off, which she debuted at the 2018 worlds, and a front handspring double front, first performed by Russian Yelena Produnova in 1999.

When will Biles perform the Yurchenko double pike?

When the world might see vault is the million dollar question. Because the U.S. team is so deep, were Biles to throw it in qualification on Sunday (25 July), a mistake could keep her out of the medal round.

Biles has previously said that she won’t do in the vault final due the lack of a warm-up on the podium immediately prior to competition, leaving the team and all-around finals as the remaining possibilities.

Biles’ coach Laurent Landi agreed.

"The smart thinking is to do it in the team final or the all-around final,” he said, according to On Her Turf. “It’s more for her. The fact that she does something amazing like this, it’s great for gymnastics and it’s great for her.”

What makes the Yurchenko double pike so difficult?

Unlike Biles’ other two main vaults, the Amanar and Cheng, which are both primarily twisting, there is no back up plan for the Yurchenko double pike. A few inches off on the board, as Biles was in early June at the U.S. championships, could be disastrous.

“I kind of jammed my ankles, and they didn’t feel too good,” said Biles of short landing she took.

Is the vault (or any of Biles’) elements banned?

Despite a handful of viral tweets to the contrary, none of Biles’ elements are banned from the sport.

That does not mean, however, that they are without controversy. When Biles introduced her named element on the balance beam, a double-twisting, double back dismount, the FIG's Women's Technical Committee awarded the element a value of just .100 higher than the full-twisting version. Many gymnastics experts, and Biles herself, thought the value was too low.

Similarly, the Yurchenko double pike's 6.6 valuation has raised eye-brows with some expecting a 6.8. According to FIG, the value of the vault was based off difficulty rating in the men's code of points.

"With 6.6 being the highest Difficulty score that a gymnast can currently obtain on this apparatus, Biles's new vault has no comparison in the Women’s Code of Points," an FIG press release reads. "The Women’s Artistic Gymnastics Technical Committee used the Men’s Artistic Gymnastics Code of Points as a reference to determine the value this vault should have."


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