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Biles stuns the world with history-making vault at World Championships


Simone Biles competes on the vault during women's qualifications at the World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, October 1, 2023. /CFP

Simone Biles competes on the vault during women’s qualifications at the World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, October 1, 2023. /CFP

Simone Biles competes on the vault during women’s qualifications at the World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, October 1, 2023. /CFP

Simone Biles, one of the greatest gymnasts of all time, has garnered widespread acclaim for her awe-inspiring routines. Her repertoire includes such astonishing maneuvers, imbued with unparalleled complexity and uniqueness, that they have been immortalized with her name.  

On Sunday, the 26-year-old American star again astounded the world by flawlessly executing an entirely novel feat – a feat so perilous that few men dare to undertake its audacious challenge. 

Following a notable two-year hiatus, Biles marked her return to the World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, becoming the first woman to land the Yurchenko double pike vault at an international competition. 

Although Biles initially unveiled the move in 2021, it had not been performed by her in an international event, which is a prerequisite for a skill to be attributed to a gymnast’s name. 

“I hope people realize that’s maybe one of the last times you’re going to see a vault like that in your life from a woman gymnast. So I think it’s time to appreciate it,” said Biles’ coach Laurent Landi. 

“There’re a lot of eyes on her right now, trying to see if she still has it,” added Landi. “She needed to do it for herself. I think the podium training helped a lot to make her believe she’s still capable of handling her nerves. And she showed it today.”

Simone Biles in action on the vault during women's qualifications at the World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, October 1, 2023. /CFP

Simone Biles in action on the vault during women’s qualifications at the World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, October 1, 2023. /CFP

Simone Biles in action on the vault during women’s qualifications at the World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, October 1, 2023. /CFP

What is the Yurchenko double pike vault?  

The Yurchenko double pike vault, a remarkably challenging skill that has predominantly been attempted by male athletes throughout history, entails a sequence of movements. 

It commences with a roundoff onto the springboard, followed by a back handspring onto the vaulting table, culminating in a piked double backflip suspended in mid-air before landing on the ground. 

The vault teeters on the delicate precipice between triumph and grave injury. With the absence of a bailout option, even the slightest deviation can propel a gymnast towards a perilous landing, potentially on the neck or head. 

Not even the esteemed Russian gymnast Natalia Yurchenko, for whom the vault is named, attempted it in official competition.

This treacherous nature of the move elucidates why Biles stands alone as the only female gymnast who dares to execute it. The skill will now be renamed “the Biles II,” with another vault already named after her in 2018. 

Simone Biles acknowledges the crowd during women's qualifications at the World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, October 1, 2023. /CFP

Simone Biles acknowledges the crowd during women’s qualifications at the World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, October 1, 2023. /CFP

Simone Biles acknowledges the crowd during women’s qualifications at the World Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, October 1, 2023. /CFP

How did Biles fare? 

Despite the inherent challenge posed by the demanding nature of the Yurchenko double pike vault, Biles possesses an incredible level of power that necessitated a slight step back to maintain control during her landing. 

Nevertheless, her marvelous performance earned her a score of 15.266, a mark that is poised to rank among the highest attained throughout competition across all events.

At the end of the first day, Biles emerged as the frontrunner in the all-around, vault, balance beam and floor exercise standings. Only on the uneven bars does another gymnast, Shilese Jones, currently hold the lead. 

With a collection of 25 world medals, surpassing any other gymnast in history, and an impressive count of seven Olympic medals, Biles is the oldest American woman to compete at the World Championships. She remains resolute in her pursuit of an extraordinary milestone: capturing an unprecedented sixth world all-around title on Friday. 

Biles, prior to her appearance at the World Championships in Antwerp, had not engaged in international competition since her decision to withdraw from five out of six finals during the delayed Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021.

She later revealed that she had been grappling with a perplexing mental affliction known as the “twisties,” which manifests as a barrier causing gymnasts to experience a disorientation in their spatial perception while airborne. 



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