Why the vault is unique among Olympic gymnastic events


COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Unlike the rest of the gymnastics events, the vault difficulty score does not increase from combining elements or adding hard skills – the whole thing is just one big skill. 

As a result, each vault has a difficulty value and a set difficulty score. What this means is you will be seeing a lot of the same style of vault or even the exact same vault over and over again as gymnasts try to reach the same level of difficulty.

The most popular style of vault is called a Yurchenko: that’s a round-off onto the springboard, back handspring onto the vault table. So, why is it popular? Well, the round-off back handspring entry helps the gymnast gain momentum, making it easier to do more flips and twists in the air. 

Also, if we want to get more technical, the angle the gymnast hits the vault on a Yurchenko entry is easier to gain height and distance because you can use more of your body to create that amplitude. When a gymnast does a front handspring vault, in other words, comes in forwards, they are using their shoulders working against the vault table to explode upwards. That takes a lot more pure power. 

It can be unnerving going backwards onto the springboard and table with that much speed, so there are safety precautions. First, a U-shape pad fits around the springboard and that is quite literally called the “safety.” Second, each gymnast has measured out their exact placement for the safety, springboard and a mat that goes in front of the springboard for their hands. Each vault runway has a tape measure along the side that helps the gymnasts know where to start running, but also where to put the springboard set up in front of the vault table. 

Now, let’s breakdown the landing. Steps and hops are clearly deductions, but on vault, the direction of those also matters. On the landing mat, you will see three white lines. The goal is to land as close to the middle line as possible. Any movement to the right or left is an added deduction, and then if the gymnast goes outside the far left or right lines, that can be multiple tenths off the landing. 

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