In gymnastics, it’s no secret that skills go in and out of style faster than you can say “Tsukahara.” Between upgrades that make simpler skills obsolete, changing trends, and banned skills, gymnastics fans know the skills they love seeing performed today will likely become irrelevant down the road.
These ever-changing fads aren’t a bad thing, since they keep the sport interesting, force gymnasts to improve, and make it fascinating to look back on where the sport has been while wondering about where it is headed! Here are 10 skills that we don’t see as frequently as we used to, but are no doubt still some fan favorites.
1. Korbut Flip
Named after Olga Korbut, this iconic skill turns heads for both longtime fans and newcomers alike. The skill is executed by standing on the high bar facing the low bar, jumping backward into the air, doing a backflip, re-grabbing the bar, and ultimately swinging towards the low bar. Standing on the bar is now banned in the Code of Points because it disrupts the flow of the routine, but Korbut performed this skill many times before the ban, including in the 1972 Olympics. While traditionally done on bars, the Korbut Flip also had a beam variation, done by completing a back handspring with a high flight in the beginning, then swinging down to a straddle position on the beam.
2. Roll-Out Skills
Any skill to which a gymnast adds a half salto and rolls out of rather than completing a full flip to their feet is considered a roll-out skill. An example of a roll-out skill is the Thomas Salto, named after Kurt Thomas. The Thomas Salto is a back salto with 1.5 flips and 1.5 twists that the gymnast rolls out of at the end before standing up. Roll-out skills have been banned in women’s gymnastics for a while because of how precise the landing must be in order to avoid neck injury. They were banned in men’s gymnastics as well in the 2017-2020 Code of Points because of the same safety concerns. This difficult landing has caused injuries for multiple gymnasts, most notably Elena Mukhina, who broke her neck and became quadriplegic because of the Thomas Salto. Many male and female gymnasts competed roll-out skills before the bans, such as when the Thomas Salto was showcased by He Xuemei at the 1992 Olympics.
3. Quad Series
A quad series, which is any series with four elements in a row on beam, was performed by many gymnasts in the 1980s and early ’90s. Many gymnasts did a combination of back handsprings and layouts in varying orders, some even combining the quad series with their mount! Gymnasts stopped performing a quad series when the 1997 Code of Points came into effect, changing the rules on what counted as a connection bonus and therefore lowering the value of these skills. As a result of these changes, gymnasts today usually complete three skills in a series rather than four.
4. Most Vault Skills
Many vaults that used to be competed at high levels are no longer seen as advanced within the sport. Since vault has gone through a large transformation in difficulty, these skills have not disappeared, but they are only competed in lower levels due to their simplicity. Vaults used to be very basic, with many gymnasts simply competing a front handspring vault or a Yamashita. A Yamashita or “Yami,” as they were referred to, was a front handspring vault where the gymnast touched their toes and went into a pike position before landing. To switch it up, gymnasts sometimes did a Yami with a half twist, or a twisting front handspring, but there was not much variation in the ’70s. Through the ’80s and ’90s vaults became more challenging, advancing to a Tsukahara, then Yurchenkos and front handspring front salto/double saltos. Modern vaults are much more complex, such as Amanars, Chengs, double twisting Yurchenkos, and more.
5. Belly Beats
Commonly referred to as just “beats” or “beating the bar,” belly beats are when a gymnast swings from a handstand position on the high bar and slams their hips into the low bar. This helps the gymnast gain momentum to complete the next skill, and when executed perfectly, this painful-looking skill does not hurt at all! To perform this skill correctly, the bars have to be on the perfect setting, ensuring each gymnast hits in the right spot. Once extremely popular, the trend faded when wider set bars became the norm. The widened bars allow gymnasts today to have more room for flight during bar to bar releases and other moves, but loses the flowy, connected rhythm many bar routines had in the past. Twenty-three seconds into this video, Nadia Comaneci gives a perfect example of this skill.
6. Multiple Front Handsprings
On floor, many gymnasts used to compete two front handsprings at the beginning of a tumbling pass before launching themselves into a difficult skill. Executed to gain momentum and power, this technique faded as round-off back handsprings became more popular. Today, higher flips and harder skills mean floor space is better used through running to gain power, rather than completing multiple front handsprings.
7. Silivas Mount
The Silivas mount, named after Romanian gymnast Daniela Silivas, is done by jumping up to a shoulder stand with legs in a straddle position, then pirouetting the body into a chest stand. Even though this skill is largely ignored today, it helped Daniela win the gold medal on beam in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Today, many gymnasts do not want to take the risk of falling right away because the reward is not high enough for completing a difficult mount. Especially after watching Alicia Sacramone fall on her mount at the 2008 Bejing Olympics, many teams decided it was safer to get on the beam without risking a fall, so the Silivas and other tricky mounts faded out of style.
8. Comaneci Dismount
This dismount begins like a toe front dismount would today, but as the gymnast shoots her legs off the bar and begins to release, there is a half twist into a backflip rather than the forward salto typically performed in a toe front. Many skills that were the height of difficulty in the 1970s are no longer performed because of their decrease in value, and the Comaneci dismount is no exception. Named after Nadia Comaneci and shown off at the 1976 Olympic Games, this dismount was one of the most difficult being done at the time, but gymnasts competing more challenging skills today have forced the Comaneci dismount out of competition.
9. Back-to-Back Tumbling
Back-to-back tumbling is any tumbling pass in which a gymnast tumbles from one corner of the floor to another, then back again to the original corner without stopping. Once performed frequently by many gymnasts such as Daniela Silivas, Oksana Omelianchik, and Dominique Dawes, it is done less often today for a few reasons. Today, the focus is on difficult skills that take more energy to complete on their own without flipping out of. There is also a stronger focus on landing, connecting skills, and form, making back-to-back tumbling too difficult without being deducted in many places.
10. Tsukahara Beam Dismount
In this dismount, a gymnast performs a roundoff off the beam, going immediately into a back salto without their feet touching the ground until the landing. Once a popular beam dismount, it went out of style when the value sunk much below its actual difficulty. Unlike the other skills on this list, the Tsukahara dismount has a chance of making a comeback. While it was out of the Code of Points for a bit, it was added back in 2013-2017 as a C skill. In those years, gymnasts could not compete a C skill as a dismount, so this addition did not make an impact until the 2017-2020 Code of Points removed the requirement for a D-level beam dismount. Although we are not seeing it as much as we used to just yet, it was performed at the Chicago Style meet as recently as 2017, giving Tsukahara dismount fans hope for a comeback.