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Simone Biles makes history at world gymnastics championship after completing challenging vault

Simone Biles made history during her return to international gymnastic competition as she completed one of the most challenging vaults in the sport on Sunday. 

The four-time Olympic gold medalist became the first woman to land a Yurchenko double pike vault internationally at the World Artistic Gymnastic Championships in Belgium. Video shows the 26-year-old sprinting down the runway before making a round-off onto a springboard, then doing a back handspring onto the vaulting table and finishing off with two double flips. As she landed on her feet, the crowd responded with loud applause. 

Considered the most challenging vault in women’s gymnastics, it has an assigned difficulty score of 6.4 – that’s more than any other type of vault, Reuters reported. It will also be renamed Biles II because it was completed in international competition, adding to a total of five skills in her name, according to Team USA. Biles previously did this vault in the U.S. in 2018, and only male gymnasts have previously done it in international competition. 

And there’s a reason it hasn’t been done before. Her coach, Laurent Landi, said on “60 Minutes” in 2021 that’s a “very, very challenging” move. 

“What’s scary [is], people can get hurt,”  Landi said. “You do a short landing, it can hurt your ankles. It’s very dangerous vault.” 

“She’s opened her eyes to everybody that this can be done when I think a lot of the people believed that a female could not do it,” Landi’s wife, Cécile, told 60 Minutes.

The vault adds to her list of recent — and career — accomplishments. Her world championships appearance was her sixth time participating, which is an unprecedented feat, according to USA Gymnastics. It also comes more than a month after Biles won a record eighth U.S. Gymnastics title. While Biles is in the middle of a comeback bid following a nearly two-year break from the sport, she hasn’t said whether she will compete in the Paris Olympics next year. 

Artistic Gymnastics World Championships. Antwerp 2023.
Simone Biles performs her Yurchenko double pike vault with coach Laurent Landi on the vault mat for assistance during the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Antwerp, Belgium.

Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

What is the Yurchenko double pike vault?

The routine requires landing a round-off entry onto the springboard, a back handspring onto the vaulting table and two flips. The move’s entry was first carried out by Natalia Yurchenko, a world champion who competed under the Soviet Union. She completed it during the 1983 Budapest World Championships as part of a performance that earned her an all-around gold at the event, according to the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame

What skills are named after Biles? 

Simone Biles has four other skills named after her: two on the floor exercise, one on the balance beam and the vault, according to USA Gymnastics. The Biles floor element consists of a double layout half-on — a half-on is a type of roundoff — while the Biles II is a triple-twisting double-tucked salto backwards. A salto is a flip that doesn’t use hands. 

On the balance beam, the Biles is made up of double twists and a double backflip dismount. Similar to her newly named move, the Biles vault is formed of a Yurchenko half-on with two twists. 

Simone Biles: The 60 Minutes Interview


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