2015 P&G championships: contenders for the vault title

SimoneBiles_101014_800x375Vault is never the most exciting event to follow during a national competition. In order to be able to reach the podium, an athlete needs to perform two different vaults, just like they would in an international competition and there aren’t many gymnast who are capable of two vaults in USA. In fact, there are only two of them and they are both world medalists. The first one is two times world silver medalist Simone Biles. Back in 2012, when Simone started making a name of herself in the world of elite gymnastics, nobody could possibly guess that she would be the super star she is today. But every single person expected her to become a fantastic vaulter. At the age of 15 she already had an amanar that was second only to Maroney’s and she got tons of attention for it. During the last three years, she has worked on perfecting that vault and it’s rare to see her landing it with more than a tiny step or hope. She also worked on a second vault and her yurchenko half on half of is one of the best executed pieces of gymnastics in the world right now. Her vaults are so high and so clean, you can barely find any flaws even if you watch in slow motion and it’s crazy to think she hasn’t been a world champion on this event yet. Simone is hoping to debut a brand new second vault at nationals, a Cheng. She has been working on this skill for a while now and she has successfully landed it at camp so it’s a highly anticipated upgrade. Hopefully, she will be able to compete it, but even if she doesn’t she still is the absolute top contender for the vault title.

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photo by John Cheng

If Simone is a lock for gold, then 2014 world bronze medalist MyKayla Skinner is a lock for silver. She doesn’t even come close to Simone’s perfect execution and as it’s been discussed plenty of times, her right arm barely makes contact with the table when she performs her Cheng. However, she still has two very difficult vaults and well, she’s the only other person in the country who has competed two vaults this year. Her Cheng gave her a fair amount of trouble during the American Cup podium training and she decided not to compete it. She brought it back at Secret Classics, where she stuck it but with her chest being very low. She has been working on getting her amanar back. She was able to perform this skill fairly well when she was a junior but it caused her trouble as she grew and she hasn’t competed it since then. With so many great vaulters and tumblers in the team right now, it’s going to be very difficult for MyKayla to earn a ticket to Glasgow. If she wants to have a chance to be on that team she needs to prove not only that she is one of USA’s top 3 vault and floor workers, but that she can also challenge for an individual medal at worlds and this is a great opportunity for her to do that.

National team member Felicia Hano, who has performed some excellent double twisting yurchenkos in the past was also working on a tsukahra full as a second vault but she is unfortunately out of the competition after injuring herself at the Podium Training of Secret Classic

The juniors

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photo by Christy Ann Linder

Junior gymnasts do not have to perform two different vaults in order to be eligible for a vault medal which means that all of them are contenders for the podium. The only junior who has shown a vault more difficult than a double twisting yurchenko this year is Jordan Chiles. The 14-years-old attempted an amanar at the Secret Classic but even though her form in the air was really nice, she did not complete the 2.5 twists and she fell. There really is no reason for someone so young to be competing an amanar already unless they can land it perfectly every single time and I hope her coaches realize that this is an unnecessary risk and stick with her excellent double twisting yurchenko for the time being. There are a handful athletes performing double twisting yurchenkos and they are all contenders for the title. The most well known of them are, the 2013 secret classics vault champion Laurie Hernandez, 2014 Jesolo vault champion Jazzy Foberg, 2014 Jesolo bronze vault medalist, Ragan Smith. Shilese Jones,  Deanne Soza, Emily Gaskins and 11753668_886507191397501_9218441953341180035_nChristina Desiderio have also been competing DTYs since last year while Sydney Johnson-Scharpf debuted one at the Secret Classic. Alyona Shchennikova is also capable of that vault but she barely put it on her feet it at classics. 2014 national silver medalist on vault, Olivia Trautman is also expected to compete despite missing Secret Classics because of an injury. If she is still capable of a DTY she should definitely be in the mix. Ragan has a big legs separation during her block, Shilese and Deanne start twisting a bit too early and Emily, Christina and Laurie could use a bit more height while Sydney still getting used to that vault. I think Jordan and Jazzy have the strongest DTYs out of the team, but really, when there are so many gymnasts with the exact same start value, one small step can be the difference between gold and silver.

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