All eyes will be on Simone Biles throughout the Tokyo Olympics.
The superstar gymnast is 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 isn’t just dominating the game, though — she’s 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 will be the prohibitive favorite to defend her title in the event during the gymnastics competitions in Tokyo, but there are other worthy adversaries going for gold. 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 Olympic vault competitions. NBC Olympics will have a Team USA tracker stream for both men’s and women’s qualifying, and men’s qualification will also be shown as part of NBC’s primetime coverage on July 24.
- U.S. men’s qualifying: Saturday, July 24, 6:30 a.m. ET (Stream, Team USA tracker)
- U.S. women’s qualifying: Sunday, July 25, 2:10 a.m. ET (Stream, Team USA tracker)
- 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 is joined by fellow Americans Suni Lee, Jordan Chiles, Grace McCallum, MyKayla Skinner and Jade Carey. Biles, Lee, Chiles and McCallum will compete in the team event, while Skinner and Carey qualified for individual spots. Biles (30.866) and Skinner (30.399) had the two best vault scores at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Eight athletes make the finals after two preliminary runs, but only two athletes from each country are allowed to make the individual finals. Even if three or more competitors from one country have a top-eight score, only the top two advance.
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 upset Simone Biles in women’s vault?
We all know who the favorite is in women’s vault, but she has some serious contenders coming for her throne.
Carey and Skinner will be among the gymnasts with the best chances of beating Biles. 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.
With Biles stretching the limits of what can be done in the discipline, she will be tough to beat in Tokyo.
Who is the favorite in men’s vault at the Tokyo Olympics?
The U.S. men are unlikely to medal in the vault competition. No American man qualified for the vault final at the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships 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.