The Anatomy of a Perfect Vault

Now that DU gymnastics is putting up some big 10.0 start value vaults, let’s talk about what it takes to get a perfect 10.0 on vault.

DU has had a few vaults already this year that are oh so close to the perfect 10. A lot depends on the landing, but sticking it isn’t all it’s about. Denver’s best vault showing so far this season, and in fact the best team vault score in program history, was on January 13, and that was before Graduate Student Lynnzee Brown rejoined the lineup.

First of all, competing a vault that is worth a 10.0 start value is imperative. The most common 10.0 start value vault in NCAA gymnastics is the Yurchenko one-and-a-half.  The #1 team, Oklahoma, competes six of these vaults. DU now has 4 of these in their lineup.

The Yurchenko one-and-a-half is  a round-off entry vault where the gymnast sprints down the runway, places her hands on the vault runway, performing a round-off that lands on the springboard backwards. Speed in her sprint down the runway is important, because this speed is what sets up everything that comes after. Without speed on her run, she will be unable to perform the required flips and twists to earn the 10.

From there, she springs backwards up onto the vault in a back-handspring motion. The contact with the vault must be at just the right angle (we’re talking some serious physics and dynamics at play here). This is the point where all of her forward momentum is transferred into an upwards trajectory, allowing her the height to complete the rest of the vault. After the gymnast leaves the vault, she initiates a 540 degree twist (the one-and-a-half part of the skill) with a straight body.

The landing is called a blind landing because her back is to the vault and to the floor as she is coming down and completing the twist. So she must know where she is in the air without seeing the floor coming up to meet her.

Her feet must land at exactly the right angle to complete the 540 twist otherwise it is a deduction. Her body must be straight in the air, otherwise it is a deduction. Her knees and ankles must be glued together, otherwise it is a deduction.

And finally, she must land so perfectly that she nulls out all of that forward momentum, all of that twisting motion, and all of her flipping rotation exactly on the spot. And then she must keep her body balanced so that not only does she not take a step, but she must also not wave her arms or torso around to avoid taking a step.

And only if you do ALL OF THAT all at once do you earn a perfect 10.0!

And then even if it is seemingly perfect, there are multiple judges, sitting at different angles to the vault, getting slightly different views of the performance. So the vault must look PERFECT at every angle to get the perfect 10.0. Junior Rosie Casali debuted her Yurchenko one-and-a-half on January 13. @DU_Gymnastics and @InsideGym both posted videos of her spectacular vault that day. One judge thought it was perfect, one found a slight fault and gave her a 9.95. The result was a 9.975 average; the best score of any DU gymnast this year. Can you find that 0.05 deduction in either of these views?

And for reference of what perfection looks like, here’s a flashback to one of my favorite DU vaulters ever, Maddie Karr. This is Karr’s perfect 10 from February 29, 2020.

Karr had a unique Cruise technique on her twist where she could spot the floor after completing 360 degrees of her twist, then complete the last 180 degrees taking her eyes off the floor only as her feet reach it. Can you see it?

So although I may complain about the judges sometimes, they have to watch every aspect of these vaults and spot any imperfection in a split second. Their job is not easy.

Come see these vaults in person at Magness tomorrow at 1:45! See these women do seemingly impossible physics calculations in their brains while flipping and twisting to get that perfect landing. Let’s Go DU!

Photo: Courtesy of Denver Athletics.

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