Glasgow 2015: vault finals preview

It’s hard not to admit that for the last years, vault tends to be the least exciting finals to watch. You don’t need to have two vaults in order to win an All Around medal or to make your team’s line up and because of that, some of the top gymnasts in the world never trained a second vault. As a result, the level of the finals was never as high as it was in the other events. However, this year is different, those could be one of the most exciting and intense competitions of the week. This is going to be the most diverse final of those championships, with eight different countries being represented and we will have an Olympic champion, a world champion, two European champion and an Asian champion all competing against each other. The three highest qualifiers were only within a tenth of each other so the battle for the podium should be intense.

1. Simone Biles (USA)

qualifications score: 15.633

start value: 6.3 + 5.6 = 11.9

biggest accomplishment: 2013 and 2014 worlds silver medalist

1When Simone made her first junior national team in 2012, vault was the only event where she had a start value that could compete against the seniors. Because of that, people thought that in the future, she would struggle to make it into major teams because she would only be good at this event. Now, three years later, she has already been a world champion on floor and beam, but she has not managed to win a gold medal on what most people considered her best event. After losing the title to Maroney in 2013 and to Hong in 2014, Simone is now going to fight for it one more time. In the past, she has trained a Cheng, and she has successfully verified it at the training camp but she is planning to stick with her Lopez for Glasgow. This means that her start value is quite lower than some of her competitors and she needs to outscore them in execution in order to win. The good thing is that there’s nobody else in the world who can execute a vault better than Biles. She has a fantastic block, she gets tons of height off the table, she has good form and she has stuck most of her landings since the competition started. She slightly crosses her ankles during her amanar but this really is the only flaw in her execution while her Lopez is nearly perfect. During qualifications, she nearly stuck both her vaults and posted the highest average on this event but she was only 0.05 ahead of the athlete who finished second so this competition is going to be intense. Simone’s difficulty is 8 tenths lower than Paseka’s or Hong’s and a tiny hop in the landing could be the difference between gold and silver for her. If she wants that gold medal, and I’m sure she does, she will need to be absolutely perfect, but thankfully for her, she’s absolutely capable of doing that.

2. Maria Paseka (RUS)

qualifications score: 15.583

start value: 6.3 + 6.4 = 12.7

biggest accomplishment: 2012 Olympics bronze medalist, 2015 European champion

tumblr_nwsl7w83iM1sm2dsfo2_400Back in 2012, when Maria Paseka landed a yurchenko with 2.25 twists to win an Olympic bronze medal on vault, nobody would have guessed that she would ever be in the position she is today. This quad has not been easy for her. She definitely had some great moments, like her uneven bars bronze medal at the 2013 Europeans, but overall, she had to get over lots of obstacles. Her first major final in 2013 was an absolute disaster, since she fell on both her vaults and did not come anywhere near close to European title everyone expected her to win in front of her home crowd in Moscow. After that, she has been injured more often that she has been healthy and she had to miss the 2013 and the 2014 world championships because of that. Every time she came back looking strong, an other injury would take her out of contention once again. However, she finally got her time to shine and 2015 has probably been the best year of her career so far. She has won the vault title at the European championships and the Universiade and she finally made it into her first world championships. During team finals, she held it together when her team was falling apart and now, she is hoping to get her first ever worlds medal. Her execution is not nearly as good as Simone’s but with a cheng and an amanar, she has a much highest start value than her. She doesn’t have the best shoulder angle during her cheng, she bends her knees, she crosses her ankles and she pikes down when she lands. She also has a massive legs separation during her block on the amanar. However, despite those mistakes, Maria is capable of getting her vaults all the way around and landing them well and she has receiving high scores during the year. Russia wants redemption after not making the podium in the team competition, and a gold medal on vault would be a great start.

3. Hong Un Jong (PRK)

Qualifications score: 15.533

start value: 6.4 + 6.3 = 12.7

biggest accomplishment: 2008 Olympic champion, 2013 worlds silver medalist, 2014 worlds champion

tumblr_nwsl7w83iM1sm2dsfo3_400Back in 2008, Hong Un Jong won the Olympic vault title after the front-runner, Cheng Fei had a fall. Shortly after that, her country was banned from any FIG competition due to falsifying gymnasts’ ages. This meant that she would not be able to compete in a major competition for 2010, 2011 or 2012 and that she would not have the chance to try to defend her title at the next Olympic Games. However, she continued to train and she came back strong in 2013, when she was allowed to compete again. She won the worlds bronze medal then and she was even more successful in 2014, earning the Asian Games and the world championships gold medal. Now, she is coming back hoping to defend her title and she certainly has what it takes to achieve that. With a cheng and an amanar, she has one of the highest start values of the competition and her execution is actually fantastic. Her vaults are not quite as explosive as Biles’ or Steingruber’s but they are always clean and well controlled. During qualifications, Hong was only a tenth behind Simone Biles and she can definitely improve this score if she pays a little bit more attention to her landings so she should not be counted out.

4. Giulia Steingruber (SUI)

qualifications score: 15.316

start value: 6.2 + 5.8 = 12

biggest accomplishments: 2014 European champion, 2015 European silver medalist, 2015 European Games champion

tumblr_nwsl7w83iM1sm2dsfo4_400In 2013, Giulia barely missed out on a medal on this event. She really was brilliant, sticking both her vaults but even that is not enough when you’re competing against Maroney, Biles and Hong. Last year, she had trouble with her second vault and only competed a yurchenko full during the finals. Unsurprisingly, this was not enough for her to challenge for a medal and she finished fifth. Now, she comes back determined to win the first worlds medal of her career. Her difficulty is still a bit lower than some of the other competitors’ but she seems to be in the best shape she has been during her career and she has shown some ridiculously powerful vaults in Glasgow. I’m not sure if she will be able to outscore athletes with higher start values, but if she manages to stick both her vaults everything is possible. A medal on this event would also give Giulia a ticket to Rio and I’m sure she’d be delighted to have that. Of course, if she doesn’t place in the top 3, she will have a chance to qualify to the Olympics through the test event.

5. Wang Yan, (CHN)

score during qualifications: 15.099

start value: 6.0 + 6.2 = 12.2

biggest accomplishments: 2014 YOG champion, 2015 Asian championships gold medalist

tumblr_nwsl7w83iM1sm2dsfo6_400First year senior Wang Yan is one of the most valuable athletes of the Chinese team. She is gorgeous on beam, she can tumble, and most importantly, she is the only member of the team who is capable of a 6 + vault. So far, she has made plenty of mistakes during the competition, but she hasn’t put a foot wrong on vault, where she has landed her double twisting tsukahara and her rudi every time she competed them. She does not quite have the power we will see from Steingruber or Biles but she has a high start value and clean form so she could surprise us. I don’t think that Wang Yan can medal unless others have mistakes, but after her disappointing performance during the AA finals, I certainly hope to see her getting her redemption. She has been training on adding an extra half twist on both her vaults so it will be interesting to see what she can do in the future.

6. Ellie Downie (GBR)

score during qualifications: 14.949

start value: 5.8 + 5.6 = 11.4

biggest accomplishments: 2014 YOG medalist, 2015 European finalist

tumblr_nwsl7w83iM1sm2dsfo5_40016-years-old Ellie Downie has already written history for British gymnastics twice during her first year as a senior. Firstly, she became Great Britain’s first athlete to win an All Around medal at the European championships and then, she was part of her the team that earned the country’s first world team medal. She is also the only British athlete to have qualified into more than one event finals. Ellie really is a fantastic vaulter. She’s very powerful, she’s very clean and she knows how to control her landings and she recently upgraded her second vault into a ridiculously clean lopez and.There were quite a few gymnasts performing a double twisting yurchenko and a lopez during qualifications but Downie was the only of them who managed to grab a spot in the finals with those vaults. She has the lower start value of the competition so she is very unlikely to fight for a medal but she certainly has tons of potential on this event and I would love to see her upgrading in the future.

Dipa Karmakar (IND)

score during qualifications: 14.900

start value: 7.0 + 6.0 = 13

biggest accomplishment: 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2015 Asian championships bronze medalist

tumblr_nwsl7w83iM1sm2dsfo8_400Surprisingly, three athletes attempted a produnova during those championships but Dipa was the only one of them who actually managed to get into the finals. Her vault has improved since the first time we saw her competing it but it still does not look safe. I definitely agree that an athlete should not put their health in danger in order to compete a difficult skill and I certainly think that the code of points should not award poorly executed and potentially dangerous attempts. However, as someone who has no say in what skills each gymnast competes or in what is going to change about the code of points, I can only hope that Dipa will be successful tomorrow. She recently upgraded her second vault to a double twisting tsukahara and she now has the highest start value of the finals. I understand why people wouldn’t want an athlete with poor execution fighting for a medal but I would by lying if I said I’m not rooting for her. I just have so much respect and admiration from any athlete who comes from a small gymnastics country but somehow manages to reach a worlds final. She is not one of the top medal contenders, but when you have a 7.0 start value, anything is possible. She has never shown a performance that could challenge Biles, Paseka, Hong or Steingruber during her career, but if she magically nails her vaults tomorrow, she could find herself on the podium. Her All Around score during qualifications wasn’t enough to qualify her to the test event and she is now the first reserve. This means that a medal in those finals is her only chance to go to Rio.

Alexa Moreno (MEX)

qualifications score: 14.899

start value: 6.0 + 6.2 = 12.2

biggest accomplishment: 2011 and 2014 worlds finalist, Anadia World Cup silver medalist

tumblr_nwsl7w83iM1sm2dsfo7_400Alexa Moreno of Mexico has proven herself as one of the best vaulters in the world after qualifying into the world finals into 2011, 2014 and 2015 and winning medals in other major international competitions. She is a powerful athlete, capable of a rudi and a double twisting tsukahara. Her start value is very respectable but she gives a few tenths away with her legs form and her chest position when she lands so she isn’t really a strong medal contender. However, she is Mexico’s only event finalist in women’s gymnastics and she made it into the top 8 beating athletes like Olympic finalist Brittany Rogers and European Games medalist Seda Tutkhalyan, so she has every reason to be proud of herself just for being in those finals.

The draw for the final is: Moreno, Downie, Hong, Steingruber, Paseka, Wang, Biles, Karmakar

All gifs were made by huanghuidan. You can find the full gifset here

You can find qualifications results here

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