Worlds Watch: USA Women The Gymnasts To Beat On Vault

As the 2019 FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Championships approach and the list of competitors are finalized, we're taking a look at the top gymnasts on each apparatus. First up is women's vault. Although reigning world vault champion Simone Biles is set to compete and defend her title, there are plenty of gymnasts who could contend and qualify for the final.

Lilia Akhaimova (RUS)

Vaults:

  • Front handspring layout 1.5
  • Tsukahara 1/1

Notable recent results:

  • 2019 Russian Cup: 1st
  • 2019 Summer Universiade: 1st

Notable recent scores: 

  • 2019 Russian Cup: 14.599 (EF), 14.700 (AA - 1 VT), 14.833 (qualifications - 1 VT)
  • 2019 Summer Universiade: 14.450 (AA - 1 VT), 14.400 (qualifications - 1 VT)

Akhaimova is on the Russia team mainly for her vaulting prowess as she has two strong vaults that can score well. But there are some form issues that prevent her from scoring higher. For her front handspring vault, there's usually major leg separation and crossed ankles during the twisting, and on her Tsukahara, she pikes down her layout. However, she can produce some good power and is able to complete all of the rotations and control her vaults.



Simone Biles (USA)

Vaults:

  • Cheng
  • Biles
  • Amanar 

Notable recent results:

  • 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships: 1st
  • 2018 World Championships: 1st

Notable recent scores: 

  • 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships: 15.400, 15.450
  • 2019 GK U.S. Classic: 15.650 (1 VT)
  • 2019 Stuttgart World Cup: 15.400 (1 VT)
  • 2018 World Championships: 15.366 (VT final), 15.500 (team final - 1 VT), 15.966 (qualifications - 1 VT) 

Whether Biles vaults the Cheng or the Biles in addition to the Amanar, she's the gold-medal favorite in addition to being the defending world champion. Her clean, powerful vaulting speaks for itself, and she can easily earn execution scores in the 9.000 range, which makes her basically untouchable on the event.


Ellie Black (CAN)

Vaults: 

  • Front handspring pike 1/1
  • Tsukahara 1/1

Notable recent results:

  • 2019 Pan American Games: 1st
  • 2019 Elite Canada: 1st

Notable recent scores:

  • 2019 Pan American Games: 14.550 (qualifications - 1 VT), 14.450 (EF, AA - 1 VT)
  • 2019 Canadian Championships: 14.500 (qualifications - 1 VT), 14.450 (AA - 1 VT)
  • 2019 Tokyo World Cup: 14.500 (1 VT)
  • 2019 American Cup: 14.433 (1 VT)
  • 2019 Elite Canada: 14.450, 14.700 (1 VT)

Black has always been known to be a good vaulter, but she's had especially strong and consistent vaulting this year, often scoring in the 14.400-14.550 range domestically and internationally. Her front handspring pike 1/1 vault is clean and controlled, and she has tight body positions in both of her vaults.


Jade Carey (USA)

Vaults:

  • Cheng
  • Amanar

Notable recent results:

  • 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships: 2nd
  • 2019 Doha World Cup: 1st
  • 2019 Baku World Cup: 1st

Notable recent scores: 

  • 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships: 15.025, 14.875
  • 2019 GK U.S. Classic: 14.900 (1 VT)
  • 2019 Doha World Cup: 14.883
  • 2019 Baku World Cup: 14.766 (EF), 14.700 (qualifications)

Although she didn't compete at worlds last year, Carey has proven herself to be one of the top five vaulters in the world and is possibly Biles' biggest competition on the event. She's competed the same vaults as Biles this year and has done them well, often earning execution scores in the high 8.800-8.900+ range and even a few above 9.000. Carey has lots of power but falls a little short of Biles in sharpness, precision, and dynamics on vault as there's a slight knee bend on her Amanar. Team USA's alternate has yet to be named, but if Carey does compete at worlds, she's basically a lock for the vault final and has a great shot at the podium.


Oksana Chusovitina (UZB)

Vaults:

  • Front handspring 1.5
  • Tsukahara 1.5

Notable recent results: 

  • 2019 Korea Cup: 2nd
  • 2019 Zhaoqing World Challenge Cup: 2nd
  • 2019 Doha World Cup: 2nd
  • 2019 Baku World Cup: 2nd
  • 2019 Melbourne World Cup: 2nd

Notable recent scores: 

  • 2019 Korea Cup: 14.550 (EF)
  • 2019 Zhaoqing World Challenge Cup: 14.325 (EF)
  • 2019 Doha World Cup: 14.183 (qualifications)
  • 2019 Baku World Cup: 14.450 (EF)
  • 2019 Melbourne World Cup: 14.200 (EF), 14.233 (qualifications)

Chusovitina has cemented her status as a gymnastics legend through her longevity in the sport, which has mainly come from her focus on training vault. Nearly 30 years after her first World Championships, she's still contending for a spot in event finals. With her powerful vaults, she's been able to earn a plethora of competitive international scores this year. Her first vault is solid, but she has some form issues with crossed ankles, leg separation on the entry, and piking down. Her second vault is cleaner and tighter, but overall she's able to compete two vaults that earn her a spot in the final.


Ellie Downie (GBR)

Vaults:

  • Yurchenko double
  • Roundoff 1/2 on, layout 1/1

Notable recent results:

  • 2019 European Championships: 3rd
  • 2019 British Championships: 1st

Notable recent scores:

  • 2019 European Championships: 14.316 (EF), 14.500 (AA - 1 VT), 14.466 (qualifications)
  • 2019 Birmingham World Cup: 14.300 (AA - 1 VT)
  • 2019 British Championships: 14.325 (EF), 14.750 (AA - 1 VT)

Downie is not only one of Great Britain's best vaulters but one of Europe's best vaulters. She's shown that gymnasts don't need a Yurchenko or Tsukahara vault to contend. Her Yurchenko double is strong, getting a good amount of distance, with the only major form issue being her piking down on the landing. Her second vault is clean as she maintains a nice laid-out position throughout the entire vault.


Shallon Olsen (CAN)

Vaults:

  • Yurchenko double
  • Roundoff 1/2 on, layout 1/1

Notable recent results:

  • 2019 Pan American Games: 3rd
  • 2019 Canadian Championships: 1st

Notable recent scores: 

  • 2019 Pan American Games: 14.183 (EF), 14.150 (qualifications - 1 VT)
  • 2019 Canadian Championships: 14.350 (AA - 1 VT), 14.500 (qualifications - 1 VT)

Although Olsen hasn't competed in many elite meets this year because of her NCAA career at Alabama, she's still shown she can excel on vault at the elite level, which requires competing two different vaults well. She has an excellent Yurchenko double. She had some trouble with her second vault earlier this year at the Pan Am Games, under-rotating her salto, but she was still able to medal. This demonstrates her strength in her first vault. But if she can hit both vaults with no major error, Olsen should be able to make her third world event final.


Maria Paseka (RUS)

Vaults:

  • Cheng
  • Amanar

Notable recent results:

  • 2019 European Championships: 1st
  • 2019 Doha World Cup: 2nd
  • 2019 Russian Championships: 1st

Notable recent scores:

  • 2019 Russian Cup: 14.200 (qualifications - 1 VT)
  • 2019 European Championships: 14.516 (EF), 14.133 (qualifications)
  • 2019 Doha World Cup: 14.766 (EF), 14.850 (qualifications)
  • 2019 Baku World Cup: 14.083 (EF), 14.116 (qualifications)
  • 2019 Russian Championships: 14.583 (EF)

Paseka is known for her vaulting, which is why she's been a part of several Olympic and world medal-winning Russian teams. She competes the same vaults as Carey, but she only matches Carey in difficulty. The reigning European vault champion has form issues with both of her vaults, however, her Amanar is definitely better than her Cheng, where she fails to maintain the layout position and control the entire vault, from the entry to the landing. She had a big leg separation on the entry of her Amanar at the European Championships this year, but in the air, she had just a slight knee bend. To make the vault final at worlds, she just needs to land both vaults as her difficulty is high enough to account for any lower execution.


Qi Qi 

Vaults:

  • Yurchenko double
  • Front handspring 1.5

Notable recent results: 

  • 2019 Chinese Championships: 2nd
  • 2018 Chinese Championships: 1st

Notable recent scores:

  • 2019 Chinese Championships: 14.450 (EF), 14.350 (AA - 1 VT), 14.250 (qualifications - 1 VT)
  • 2019 City of Jesolo Trophy: 14.500 (AA - 1 VT)
  • 2018 Chinese Championships: 14.750 (EF), 14.750 (TF - 1 VT), 14.700 (qualifications - 1 VT)

Qi doesn't have much difficulty compared to some of the other top vaulters heading to worlds, but she has the good execution to make up for it. She maintains a nice layout position throughout both of her vaults and does a good job at keeping her feet and legs together. However, she lacks a bit of power and therefore distance. But Qi's vaults are a prime example of how high execution combined with solid difficulty can produce good scores.


MyKayla Skinner (USA)

Vaults:

  • Cheng
  • Amanar

Notable recent results:

  • 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships: 3rd

Notable recent scores:

  • 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships: 14.725, 14.800
  • 2019 GK U.S. Classic: 14.900 (AA - 1 VT)

Although she's only been training elite for a couple of months, Skinner's got her elite vaults back and in good shape. Like Carey and Paseka, she competes a Cheng and an Amanar. She's made strides in her form and execution since joining NCAA gymnastics, and her vaults are noticeably cleaner than Paseka's. However, they aren't as clean as Carey. Regardless, Skinner's got great power and should have no problem making the final if she competes at worlds (Team USA has yet to name the alternate).




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