All eyes are on Team USA throughout the gymnastics competition at the Tokyo Olympics, but it has missed its star competitor throughout the last week.
Simone Biles came into the Olympics fresh off a winning performance in the U.S. Olympic Trials in June 2021, leading a group of six qualified American women into Tokyo. Biles also won her seventh straight U.S. crown after taking home the all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Fort Worth, Texas, earlier that same month.
She wasn’t just dominating the game, though -- she was changing it, too.
At the U.S. Classic in May, Biles stuck a historic Yurchenko double pike in the vault. She became the first woman to ever nail the move and is likely the first woman gymnast to even train for it.
Biles was the prohibitive favorite to defend her title in the event in Tokyo, but she withdrew from the event after exiting the team competition earlier in the week. Still, there are other worthy adversaries going for gold, including two Americans. Here are the key questions, storylines and information for the 2021 Olympic vault competitions:
How can I watch men’s and women’s Olympic vault competitions?
Below is the streaming information for the individual Olympic vault competitions. Both can be streamed on Peacock and NBCOlympics.com.
- Women's vault final: Sunday, Aug. 1, 4 a.m. ET (Stream)
- Men's vault final: Monday, Aug. 2, 4 a.m. ET (Stream)
NBC Olympics’ full viewing schedule can be found here.
Who will be competing for Team USA in vault?
Biles was joined by fellow Americans Suni Lee, Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum, MyKayla Skinner and Jade Carey. Biles (30.866) and Skinner (30.399) had the two best vault scores at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
In individual qualifying, Biles had the top score in the vault, Carey placed second and Skinner came in fourth. Since there cannot be more than to two competitors from the same country in an individual event final, Skinner initially missed out since she was behind Biles and Carey. Biles' withdrawal opened the door for Skinner, who now had a chance to medal.
Brazil's Rebecca Andrade and South Korea's Yeo Seo-jeong are also in medal contention after placing third and fifth, respectively, in qualifying.
For the men, Brody Malone emerged victorious with an all-around score of 171.600 at the U.S. Olympic Trials. He will be joined by Sam Mikulak, Yul Moldauer and Shane Wiskus in the team event in Tokyo, while Alec Yoder also earned an individual spot. Of the five men heading to Tokyo, Wiskus did the best in vault with a fifth-place finish at the trials.
Who has the best chance to win women’s vault?
Carey and Skinner will be among the gymnasts with the best chances of winning a gold medal on Sunday. Carey earned silver in the event at the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, while Skinner trailed only Biles at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Switzerland's Giulia Steingruber, the 2016 bronze medalist in Rio, qualified for her third Olympics while Russia's Maria Paseka, the 2016 silver medalist, announced a break from the sport in 2020.
Who is the favorite in men's vault at the Tokyo Olympics?
There are no U.S. men in the Olympic vault final. The country was unlikely to field a finalist, as no American man qualified for the vault final at the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships either and Moldauer’s 14.366 score in vault as part of the individual all-around event was tied for ninth place.
Russia took the top two spots in men’s vault at the 2019 World Championships with Nikita Nagornyy winning gold and Artur Dalaloyan claiming silver. Ukraine’s Igor Radivilov took home bronze.
North Korea’s Ri Se-Gwang, the 2016 gold medalist in the event, and Japan’s Kenzō Shirai, the 2016 bronze medalist, retired from gymnastics in 2020. Rio silver medalist Denis Ablyazin of Russia will attempt to claim another medal in Tokyo.
What is a Yurchenko double pike?
For a Yurchenko vault, the gymnast does a round-off onto the springboard, back handspring onto the table and then flips. From there, most gymnasts add twists to their single flip to add some difficulty and improve their potential score. Instead of twisting, though, a Yurchenko double pike includes a second flip done in a pike position.
The new vault received a provisionary difficulty score of 6.6, though Biles believes the move should be a 6.8. For context, her two vaults in the final at the 2016 Rio Games received 6.3 and 6.4 difficulty scores, respectively. On the men’s side, no 2016 medalist attempted a vault with a higher difficulty score than 6.4.