If this is what Simone Biles has up her (hypothetical) sleeves, the competition should just go home. While practicing for her return to gymnastics at Saturday’s U.S. Classic, Simone, 24, landed the Yurchenko double pike not once but twice. The move, which gets its name from retired Russian gymnastics champion Natalia Yurchenko, has never been attempted by a female competitor in competition – and Simone just did it with ease. Only male gymnasts have been able to land it in the past. So, if she busts it out during the U.S. Classic, it will be another record broken, another moment of history being made, and another reason to argue why Simone is the greatest of all time.
Simone Biles just did THAT. 🤯
— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) May 21, 2021
“I just got a little nervous on the landing,” Simone told coach Laurent Landi. Afterward, in a media call, Simone said she gave herself a pep talk before the vault, per NBC Sports. “I was like, ‘It’s ok, I’ve done this so many times, I’ve been doing this for months now,’” she said. She also said that she feels “really good going into tomorrow.”
— Team USA (@TeamUSA) May 21, 2021
While watching Simone perform the Yurchenko double pike, it might be hard to break down why it’s so impressive — and why it’s so dangerous. The “Yurchenko” describes the vault’s entry, according to the comprehensive breakdown by the Washington Post. In a Yurchenko, a gymnast “does a round-off onto the springboard, then a back handspring onto the vault.” Once the competitor hits the vault, they push off into the air and begin a single flip. Simone and other top vaulters do a Yurchenko with a two-and-a-half twist, which the Post notes is called an Amanar. But, for here, Simone does a second flip. The “pike” part of the name refers to the position of the legs during the flip, with “hips bend and knees straight.”
“It’s very, very challenging,” Coach Landi told 60 Minutes in February. “And what’s scary, it’s that people can get hurt, you know? You do a short landing, you can hurt your ankles, and then– you know– it’s– it’s a very dangerous vault.”
“I had already reached, and passed, all my expectations in the sport already,” Simone told USA Today in April. The U.S. Classic on May 21 marks her first gymnastics competition in more than 18 months, after COVID-19 postponed the 2020 Olympics and put the sports world on hold. Simone has already conquered the Olympics – winning five medals in the Rio 2016 games, four of which were gold – so now is the time when she tries to do the impossible. “So going back to, in 2018, worlds, and in 2019, I was kind of like, ‘OK, I don’t really have anything to lose at this point. I’ve already stamped my status on the sport.’’ But I’m going to push myself to see how much further I can go in the sport.”