The road to Rio is coming to an end. The Olympic games are right around the corner! As a team the United States has shown we are the ones to beat. In the All around we could go 1-2, gold and silver, but the real competition will be in the event finals. I plan to write a series of articles on each apparatus. I plan to write about who I think the top 5 contenders will be on each apparatus in the event finals in the Olympics. My focus is not only on the scores but also start values on the potential the gymnasts can achieve. I will be looking at 2015 world championships, 2016 Championships, some past Olympic history, and practice videos to help determine who is in my top 5. Let’s start with the vault.
In the women’s vault event finals each gymnast performs two separate vaults. The vaults are averaged to give the gymnast their score. Just like any other apparatus anything can happen on the day of event finals. 2012 showed us that when the favorite to win gold, Makayla Moroney, fell on her second vault. In 2008, many believed that Cheng Fei should not have won the bronze due to her knees touching the ground on her second vault. Alicia Sacramone stood up both of her vaults and landed in fourth. This year we go into the Olympics with the United States thinking Simone Biles will be a lock for the gold. There are four other gymnasts who will be competing with the same or higher start values. I will be taking a look at Maria Peska from Russia, Oksana Chusovitina from Uzbekistan, Giulia Steingruber from Switzerland, and Sae Miyakawa from Japan. Each of these gymnasts are known for their power and speed.
Oksana Chusivtina from Uzbekistan
Oksana Chusovitina is currently competing for Uzbekistan. She is the oldest competitor at 41 years old. She will become the first gymnast to compete in seven consecutive Olympic games. She holds the record for the most medals won on a single event in World championships at a total of nine. This year her highest average on vault was a 15.325 this year. She will be competing the Prudonova vault which has a high start value and has seldom been landed straight up. I think this vault is too difficult and possibly too dangerous. This vault has such a high level of difficulty that even with the deduction of a fall, the vault can still compete in the top three. In her instagram she shows that she can land it, I would like to see it without the deep squat though.
2. Hung Un-Jong From North Korea
Hung Un-Jong is the 2008 Olympic gold medalist. The 25 year old gymnast was the first female gymnast from North Korea to win a medal in the Olympics. At the 2015 World Championship she won the silver medal missing the gold by only 0.033. In this video we watch her two vaults from the 2015 World Championships. The first vault (Amanar) has a difficulty score of 6.3. She barely squeezes in the extra half turn and receives a score of 15.666. On her second vault (Cheng) which has a difficulty start value of 6.4 she earns a 15.6 which gives her an average of 15.366. She will have to straighten her legs and stick the vaults to be the first back to back Olympic vault champion.
3. Simone Biles from the Unites States
Simone Biles will have her international debut of her new second vault, (Cheng), which is the same as the one that Hong Un Jong competes. Simone has received the gold at the US national championship from 2013 to 2016. The reigning three-time World all around champion has yet to win a gold on this event. Her massive 6.3 Amanar vault is often compared to Olympian Kohei Uchimura from Japan. She has received an almost perfect 9.9 execution this year. If she repeats we will see a score between 15.9-16.2. In the past her second vault has kept her from a medal by having a difficulty of only 5.3. This won’t be the case now! With so much power she can have some difficulty finding her landing. She can still get a 15.7-15.9. Here is her vault from the 2016 P&G Championships.
4. Giulia Steingruber from Switzerland
Giulia Steingruber has claimed the vault title in the European Championships in 2013, 2014, and 2016. She competed a tsukahara double twist in the 2012 Olympic games. At the 2015 World Championships she competed a beautiful front handspring vault into a 1 1/2 twist ith a difficulty score of 6.2 and earned a 15.5. Unfortunately on her second vault, a yuerchenko 1 1/2, she landed with a locked knee and scored a 13.633 finishing in 7th place. At the 2016 European Championship she opened with her 1 1/2 receiving a 15.5. Her second vault had a difficulty score of 5.8. She competed a yuerchenko double earning her the score of 14.466. Her average was a 14.983 edging out Becky Downie for the gold. She is currently training a double twisting front handspring front layout. If she were to compete this in the Olympics she would have a 7.0 difficulty.
5. Maria Peska from Russia
Maria Peska is the reining World Champion on the vault. She performed a 6.3 Amanar for first vault and scored a 15.7. She completed the Cheng vault with a difficulty score of 6.4 and received a 15.633. She averaged a 15.666 which gave her the gold. She has some bent knees she will need to work on, but her block is very powerful. She holds the bronze in the 2012 games. She has been able to score a 15.8 with her Amanar.
I only looked at the top high scoring five, out of eight competitors for the vault final. Here are the gymnasts that I think could round out this group.
Ellie Downie (Great Britain) won the silver medal this year at the European Championship in Bern. She averaged a 14.933 with double twisting Yuerchenko and a Yuerchenko half on front half off in a layout position.
Sae Miyakawa (North Korea) is on this list because she is able to compete a front Rudi. The same one we saw from Giulia.
Dipa Karmakar (India) is on my list because she has the infamous 7.0 vault. She currently holds the highest scored Prudonova at 15.300. She recieved a 8.3 for execution.
The vault final in the Olympics is the most exciting to me. A gymnast could stick the first vault perfectly and not land the second. Someone could actually land the Prudonova vault! The vaults are getting more exciting and the amount of power needed to generate the completion is crazy! Will Simone finally get her vault gold? Will Oksana leave the sport with the one medal she doesn’t have? Or will Maria help Russia to regain their golden destiny?
Next we will be looking at the uneven bars, stay tuned!